Yesterday I learned that Rabbi Edward M. Tenenbaum ז”ל passed away. Rabbi Tenenbaum was the rabbi at my grandparents’ synagogue, Temple Beth Zion, in Los Angeles. He was 92 years old.
I think when I was little (we’re talking very young) I thought that Rabbi Tenenbaum was what a rabbi looked like. From what I remember he always wore a black suit and a simple tie. He always smiled at people and remembered details of their lives (or maybe he just remembered details of my life?). He had a distinctive voice that could fill a room if he wanted, but was most often gentle and soothing.
GRANDMA and PAPA were very active members of Temple Beth Zion in its prime. Rabbi Tenenbaum, and his late wife, Florence (who was always called “The Rebbetzin”) were always treated as special guests and I remember going up to both of them at the urging of GRANDMA to say hello. MOM and DAD, of course also always urged me, too. I was fairly well mannered. MOM, DAD, GRANDMA and PAPA taught me more directly how to have respect for the rabbi. Respect that I still have for rabbis even as I am one. (Upon hearing of his death, UNCLE H recollected that he was the rabbi at his Bar Mitzvah and that was more than 35 years ago! I guess all of us Steinmans have respect for rabbis.)
Many years ago when PAPA was still alive, there was a special celebration for Rabbi Tenenbaum. PAPA, who almost never asked me to do anything, asked me to go and represent our family. While the evening represents many hours that I won’t get back, it was truly a pleasure to be there for Rabbi Tenenbaum. It meant so much to him that I was there, even he started to introduce me to people, including many of his contemporaries.
I would see Rabbi Tenenbaum at various other events when I was a rabbinic student. Sometimes when I was a student rabbi he would be at the mikveh. (I think he always knew who I was because I resemble GRANDMA so much, or maybe it was because I always said my name). I remember going up to him at the Southern California Board of Rabbis Sermon Seminar and his delight in knowing that I was going to become a colleague. I invited him to my ordination, though he wasn’t able to attend he sent me a lovely note which I still have.
Rabbi Tenenbaum was one of the good ones. May his memory be for a blessing.