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Farewell to a Friend – Rabbi Boaz Heilman

Temple B’nai Israel Honors Rabbi Boaz Heilman

Temple B’nai Israel of Laconia will see major change in the coming year with the passing of the gavel from Marsha Ostroff-Rines to Ira Keltz, newly elected president of the Board of Trustees and a new resident of New Hampshire, arriving in Laconia from Michigan just last year. Ms. Ostroff-Rines stepped down after having served as president for the last eight years.  Her commitment to TBI will continue as a past president on the board and she looks forward to spending her time helping with the many aspects of temple activities, which will include welcoming Rabbi Dan Danson who has been hired to fill the vacancy left by Rabbi Boaz Heilman.  Following the annual meeting on Sunday June 10th, a farewell luncheon was held honoring Rabbi Heilman as he, along with his wife Rabbi Sally Finestone, begin a new chapter in Colorado.

This was a joyous, yet sad and bittersweet farewell, with a tribute to a man whom the congregation claimed as “our beloved TBI rabbi, our resident ‘mensch’ in the Lakes Region.” Everyone felt that New Hampshire’s loss is Colorado’s gain.  The accolades came from outgoing TBI president, Marsha Ostroff-Rines who praised Rabbi Heilman’s dedication to the entire congregation.  Gary Broom, second vice president, spoke eloquently and with sincere emotion, his voice often breaking, as he thanked Boaz for being more than a rabbi, but a friend as well.   Rev. Judith Wright, representing the Unitarian Universalist Society of Laconia, thanked Rabbi Heilman for reaching out into the community and sharing his warmth and spirit.  The final tribute of the day was a musical salute to Rabbi Heilman, performed by congregant Dr. Mark Aronson, a parody of Paul Simon’s “Mrs. Robinson”:

And here’s to you, Boaz Heilman, Moses loves you more than you will know:

God bless you please, Boaz Heilman, Heaven holds a place for those who pray.

At the time of his installation on November 14, 2015, Rabbi Heilman was “following his own path” as reported in The Laconia Daily Sun on November 17, 2015.  The article by Michael Kitch entitled “Passing the Torah” followed Rabbi Heilman’s path “from Israel to America and back again, where he has left his mark as a pianist, teacher and medic with the Israel Defense Forces while slaking an appetite for hiking and honing an eye for photography.  With his rich experience and diverse talents, Rabbi Heilman is an ideal fit with what Barbara Morgenstern, (of blessed memory), a member of the board, called ‘our interesting, eclectic congregation.’”

Thus, the legacy of Rabbi Boaz Heilman began in Laconia, New Hampshire.  At his installation, he spoke with great anticipation about embarking on this path at this time of his life:

Not only did I find the kind of powerful and dramatic beauty of nature that New Hampshire possesses. Not only did I discover a slower, more patient, more easy-going way of life; Not only did I discover a thriving Jewish community here, but one that has been in existence for well over one hundred years!  I discovered a community of people so devoted to their Judaism that they took it upon themselves to make sure that it survived and even thrived.

It did not take long for the temple members to realize just how very lucky it was that Rabbi Heilman was willing to make the trek every two weeks from Massachusetts, to lead the congregation in Shabbat services and adult education programs, to officiate at lifecycle events including weddings, funerals and bar or bat mitzvahs, coming of age ceremonies for children aged thirteen.  Rabbi Heilman also supervised the small but dynamic religious school and won the hearts of every child in the school.

On Sunday Rabbi Heilman was overcome, often stopping to collect his thoughts and emotions as he addressed the congregation.    He said “I wanted to be here” and that he did not consider it “work” as it was a joy and pleasure for him to lead this vibrant congregation.  Rabbi Boaz Heilman will be missed and will always be in the hearts and minds of the congregants of TBI.

Rabbi Dan Danson will begin his tenure at Temple B’nai Israel on July 1st.  TBI invites the community to meet Rabbi Danson at The New Hampshire Jewish Food Festival, on Sunday July 14th, 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on the temple grounds at 210 Court Street in Laconia.  For more information visit the TBI website TBINH.org.

 

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