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March 14, 2003 - Image 125

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-03-14

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

him as a rabbi," Rabbi Syme said.
He established a daily minyan
(prayer quarum) that still continues
each morning and formed the
Minyanaires, a group of volunteers
who conduct memorial services in
homes of shivah.
When he came to Temple Israel, no
religious studies program existed for
synagogue youth other than a Sunday
morning class.
"Dad always felt religious school was
the most important aspect of the syna-
gogue," Rabbi Daniel Syme said. "So
he personally taught in the religious
school every day." Nov more than
1,600 students are enrolled. Rabbi
Syme also introduced the bar and bat
mitzvah classes at the synagogue, with
Temple Israel now celebrating 180
b'nai mitzvah annually.
Rabbi Syme has had a strong hand
in shaping Temple Israel's support
groups, including those for young
adults and young married couples.
He retired from the 3,400-family
congregation to the position of rabbi
emeritus in 2000, after nearly 47 years
at Temple Israel.

Everybodys Rabbi

Creating a family within his immense
congregation is one of Rabbi Syme's
most significant accomplishments,
according to Rabbi Yedwab, who
added, "He infused forever the sense
of family here at Temple Israel."
Rabbi Syme created a unique rela-
tionship with fellow clergy. "When he
became senior rabbi at Temple Israel,
he eliminated his title and that of the
other rabbis," Rabbi Daniel Syme said.
"Every rabbi is just called rabbi. This
is a philosophy I share and brought to
my congregation at Temple Beth El."
"It takes a great man to share
authority the way he did with the rab-
bis who came to join him," said Rabbi
Yedwab, a Temple Israel colleague
along with Rabbis Loss, Joshua
Bennett and Marla Hornsten, Cantor
Lori Corrsin, Cantorial Soloist Neil
Michaels and longtime colleague,
Cantor Harold Orbach, who retired
from the synagogue in 2002.
"To create a partnership the way he
did, took someone who thinks way
beyond himself. I saw him as the 'dean
of Michigan rabbis."'
In 1971, Rabbi Harold Loss was
drawn to Temple Israel by the oppor-
tunity to work with Rabbi Syme. "It
was probably the only congregation in
the country where the rabbis worked
without contracts," he said. "He told
me he was looking, not for an assis-
tant, but a partner, and that was so

Left to right:

Rabbi Leon Fram,
former Temple
Frank L. Simons,
Rabbi Syme and
Cantor Harold
Orbach (Ap ril

Sonia and
Rabbi Syme
(circa 1989)

clearly the philosophy of Rabbi Syme."
On behalf of his post as president of
the Michigan Board of Rabbis, Rabbi
Yedwab said, "People of all streams of
Judaism really saw him as their rabbi,
and this includes other rabbis."
Norton Stern, past president of
Temple Israel said: "His life was con-
stantly about being a rabbi and taking
care of the congregation. He always
knew what was best for Temple Israel
and for the Jewish people. He was the
kind of rabbi young rabbis should
aspire to be."
Rabbi Syme also forged close rela-
tionships between the Reform move-
ment and other Jewish.streams. "He

established bonds of mutual respect
with colleagues," said his friend Rabbi
Irwin Groner of Conservative
Congregation Shaarey Zedek.
"He expressed great care for the peo-
ple of his congregation, sharing in
their sorrows and rejoicing in their
joys. He was a friend to all who came
within the circle of his life. We have
all been blessed by his warmth and
wisdom. He was dedicated to his corn-
mitments, which embraced Temple
Israel, the people of Israel and our
own community."
Rabbi M. Robert Syme is survived
by his sons and daughters-in-law,
Rabbi Daniel and Dr. Jill Syme, David

and Victoria Syme of West Bloomfield
and grandson, Joshua Syme.
Rabbi Syme was the beloved hus-
band of the late Sonia Syme and the
loving father of the late Michael Syme.
Contributions may be made to the
Rabbi M. Robert Syme Fund, Temple
Israel, 5725 Walnut Lake Road, West
Bloomfield, MI 48323; to the Sonia
and Rabbi M. Robert Syme Memorial
Fund at Temple Israel; or to Temple
Beth El, 7400 Telegraph, Bloomfield
Township, 48301.
Funeral services for Rabbi Syme were
held at Temple Israel with interment at
Beth El Memorial Park. Arrangements
by Ira Kaufman Chapel.

Hand To Hand

Special to the Jezvish News

I always felt close to "Bwana," as
my family called him. While my sis-
ter and I adopted him as a grandfa-
he first piece of rabbinic litera-
ther, I also engaged him as my
ture I ever learned was with
teacher. I studied the melody of his
Rabbi Syrne. Even though I
voice, the movement of his hands
went to Hillel Day School, I
when he spoke, his interactions
had not yet been introduced to
with people, the way that he
the world of texts created by the
exuded peace of mind and
ancient rabbis.
calmness of spirit.
I went to Rabbi Syme to ask
I wanted to emulate the way
him how to better understand
he always seemed to capture the
the story of the Akeidah, the
congregation's attention and
binding of Isaac. He thought for
leave them with a message of
a second and said this: Our rab- .Jennifer
hope, comfort and the beauty of
bis taught that on the way up
Judaism. Throughout this time,
Mt. Moriah, Abraham held
I kept asking him questions and
Isaac's hand. On the way down, Isaac
I kept learning more texts from him.
held Abraham's. From that moment,
From that day in his office until now,
from that small teaching, my mentoring he guided me and held my hand.
relationship with Rabbi Syme began.
When Rabbi Syme wrote me a rec-
ommendation for rabbinical school, I
Jennifer Tisdale of West Bloomfield
could not have been more honored.
will graduate from, and be ordained
For me, it was the sign not that I had
a rabbi at, the Hebrew Union
become the person he was, but that
College-Jewish Institute of Religion in
with the help of his mentorship, I
Cincinnati in June.
had become a person that was worthy



of his esteem and respect.
Through four years of rabbinical
school, Rabbi Syme gave me his sup-
port by attending and critiquing my
sermons, reminding me of what I was
becoming, and assuring me that I was
doing exactly what God had created
me to do. He made me believe that
being a rabbi was holy work. He
taught me how Judaism could be my
essence and that rabbis could exem-
plify what was beautiful and mean-
ingful in the Jewish faith. I learned
that through his example. I learned
that as he held my hand.
When I heard that he had died, I
cried for many reasons. I cried that his
spirit would no longer be among us. I
cried that our congregation was now
without his soft voice and heartening
presence. I cried that he would not see
my ordination. Just as I cried, though,
a good friend reminded me that he
will always be with me — in my heart,
my mind and my rabbinate.
I realized that from now on, I am
holding his hand and more impor-
tantly, I hope to live and serve the
Jewish community in such a way that
I will embody his legacy. ❑





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