According to Rabbi David Fass, and plenty who worked closely with him, much of what he did during his 34 years at New City’s Temple Beth Sholom went unseen by most.
On Saturday night, at a dinner honoring at Paramount Country Club in New City, Temple Beth Sholom President Marty Rutstein said a lot of what Fass did over the past 34 years involved “sharing the pain, suffering and grief of congregants going through difficult times.” But Fass was also there for plenty of good times for his congregants, dancing at plenty of bar and/or bat mitzvahs, according to Marion Fass, the rabbi’s wife.
“He’s just always been there for us,” said Peter Taub, who along with his wife, Joyce, has been a member of the temple for 35 years. “He bat 'mitzvahed' our children, married our son and buried my parents.”
Nancy Goldberg, a past president of the temple from 2003 to 2006 and member for 33 years, also said Fass has been involved with various pleasant and difficult ceremonies for her family. But the thing she is taking most of all from Fass’ tenure is how she got to know him while she was president.
“I got to know the man behind the pulpit,” she said. “He’s certainly a very spiritual man, but more than that, he really listens. You could talk to him about anything, and he’d always give you his full attention and help out however he could. He was truly available 24/7.”
The temple had a ceremony to honor Fass on Friday night at services and on Saturday more than 150 people came out to celebrate with the rabbi. A band played throughout the night, with many joining in for the Hora, at one point even lifting Fass up in a chair.
Rutstein said he thinks there have been about 15 presidents of in Fass’ 34 years as rabbi.
“Presidents come and go, but rabbis provide the continuum for the congregation. They have to adapt, they have to survive for a multitude of personalities and institutional goals,” he said. “A rabbi and the congregational president interact in very special ways, ways that are very much different than the widely known interactions between congregants and the rabbi. Many congregants see their rabbi only on the bimah, and sometimes only on the high holidays, maybe rarely at shabbat.”
Marian Fass thanked everyone for coming out and urged them to continue to support the temple.
“You have a very special rabbi and friend here, my children have a very special father, my grandchildren have a wonderful grandpa rabbi and I have the best husband and the best friend in the world,” she said. “We will miss you, the congregants, day-by-day, but we’re staying here in the community. We thank you for enriching our lives, as we hope we have enriched yours.”