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November 09, 2006 - Image 32

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2006-11-09

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E Of

Happy 75th, Rabbi Groner!

David Groner delivered these
remarks at the 75th birthday cele-
bration for his father, Rabbi Irwin
Groner, Oct. 29 at Congregation
Shaarey Zedek in Southfield.


ood evening and wel-
come to the celebration
of Shaarey Zedek's leg-
acy and my dad's 75th birthday.
Before I speak tonight, I would
like to say a few words. I am here
in dual capacities, both to praise
my father and to speak on his
behalf. My father is humbled and
honored by your presence and
good wishes. I know he would
say he is undeserving of these
accolades, but no one is more
deserving than my father.
We all know why we are
here this evening — because
the Tigers are not playing at
home. Which reminds me of a
true story that really did hap-
pen. The year was 1968 and the
Tigers were playing the St. Louis
Cardinals in the World Series at
Tiger Stadium in Detroit. My
brother and I were huge Tiger
fans, and we begged our dad
to get tickets to the game. Not
being much of a sports enthusi-

ast, our father begrudg-
ingly agreed because he
could sense our longing
to go to the World Series.
So he managed to secure
the tickets, and the three
of us went to the game.
Sitting through the
cold, wet, nine innings,
in which the Tigers lost
badly 10-1, my father,
probably wishing a
swift end to the game, duti-
fully endured the conditions and
allowed my brother and me to
bask in the glory of being at the
World Series.
It's a memory that I'll never
forget. And I know, Dad, you had
no interest in being there; your
interest was in serving God and
the members of this synagogue.
I know this because when my
brother and I first approached
you, enthusiastically extolling
how wonderful it would be if the
Tigers won, you asked, as you
often did, "0.K., but is this good
for the Jews?"
Dad, that's been your convic-
tion for all these years — doing
what is good for the Jews, the
congregation and the community

as a whole. It is obvi-
ous that you feel that
your role and posi-
tion as a rabbi is truly
a calling and not
just a job. Over the
years, you have self-
lessly and tirelessly
worked to enrich and
strengthen the lives of
the members of this

Vast Impact
Dad, in the weeks leading up
to this event, many peoplehave
expressed to me how you have
touched their lives and how they
have developed a special bond
with you over the years. When I
was stopped in the store or at the
courthouse or when people called
on the phone, the conversation
would always resonate with admi-
ration and affection for you.
My dad's reputation as a great
orator is well known — so much
so that many of you convinced
him awhile back to compile his
most poignant sermons in a
book, Renewing Jewish Faith
(available through the University
of Michigan Press on Amazon.

corn for $30).
Dad, no one could captivate
an audience like you. No mat-
ter what the occasion, happy or
sad, Shabbat or Yom Tov, when
you spoke, people listened; they
laughed; and they were moved by
your quick wit, spiritual wisdom
and, of course, your "Gronerisms."
But not only do you speak
through your words, but also
through your deeds and actions.
While growing up, our family
watched you treat people with
dignity, respect and kindness. We
watched you help and comfort
those who were in mourning and
sadness. We watched you share in
people's happiness and joy. And,
of course, we watched and lis-
tened as you inspired so many
with your eloquent sermons,
delivered from this bimah.
You instilled in us the prin-
ciples that helped us all navigate
through the journey of life. You
lent us wisdom and knowledge
to enrich our lives and those
around us. You taught us charity
and compassion in our dealings
with others. You encouraged us
to have the integrity and moral
courage to do what's right. You

passed on your strong belief
and faith in God to help us stay
on course. All the while, you, by
your example, demonstrated
these virtues. You unequivocally
embody the words: father, men-
tor, teacher and rabbi.
My father lives the philosophy
that no man is an island. As he
has said many times before, he
would not be here today if it was
not for the patience, understand-
ing, support, and love of his part-
ner and wife, Leypsa.
Since they met, my mother has
always stood by my dad's side,
putting him on a pedestal as his
biggest fan, but at the same time
challenging and keeping him
sharp, as his toughest critic. She
managed the Groner household,
raising the children; and she was
truly my father's ezer kenegdo
[helper]. My mother not only
raised a family, but some say she
even ran the synagogue.

be destiny.
Indeed, when Israel achieved
independence, the Negev Desert
extended up to Gadera, today a
suburb of Tel Aviv. Due to centu-
ries of overgrazing, deforestation
and poor soil stewardship, the
northern Negev — once a highly
productive region — had largely
turned into a wasteland. What
emerged from Abraham's journey
through the desert to the Promised
Land was a nomadic lifestyle that
was based on an equilibrium with
the region's harsh environment.
This equilibrium Was lost for
many centuries. In a sense, in 1948
the Jewish people had to quickly
relearn how to live in harmony
with their arid homeland.
Even with its meager resources
as a nascent developing country,
Israel set about to reclaim its
desert heritage. During the 1950s,
water infrastructure projects were

built that delivered water from
the rainy north to the desiccated
south. Settlements were estab-
lished that first invented and then
expanded drip irrigation technolo-
gies to produce prosperous, local,
agricultural economies. The Jewish
National Fund succeeded in plant-
ing trees on dry and salty lands
that professional forestry literature
had long since written off. Grazing
was organized, with seasonal allo-
cations made to ensure that the
land's carrying capacity was not
The Israeli experience was not
without its mistakes. Aquifers
were over-pumped. Sometimes,
the wrong crops were planted.
For too long, a paradigm of "con-
quering the desert" rather than
"living with the desert" prevailed.
But the impulse of transforming
the degraded heartlands of Israel
remained a central national corn-

Parting Thought,
I would like to share with you
some words that my father spoke
at his installation as the presi-
dent of the Rabbinical Assembly
in 1990, and I quote:

Israel's Ecological Triumph

Beersheva, Israel


aldng the desert bloom
— that's one of the
axioms in David Ben-
Gurion's remarkable legacy, which
fired the imagination of Israeli
farmers, international donors and
a Zionist movement for over half
a century.
Israel's founding prime minister
stunned the entire Jewish people
in 1953 when he left his head-of-
state position to move to a remote
kibbutz, Sede Boker, in the Negev
desert. There, he would live out his
days trying to bring about Isaiah's
prophesy: "The desert and the
parched land will be glad; the wil-
derness will rejoice and blossom"
On Nov. 6, Sede Boker once
again was the focus of attention
when Ben-Gurion University's
Jacob Blaustein Institutes for
Desert Studies co-hosted a


November 9 • 2006

yields according to
major international
their natural potential.
conference, "Deserts
Some 400 million of
and Desertification
the world's poorest
— Challenges and
people are negatively
Opportunities." Its

partner — the United
Nations Convention to
are often seen in the
Combat Desertification
news: famine,
(UNCCD) — is the key
international mechanism
for addressing one of the
even violence. Sadly,
planet's most egregious
efforts to address the
ecological scourges. This consti-
have been patently
tuted the first conference in Israel
in many regions
under U.N. auspices.
Desertification, or the degrada-
tion of soils in the drylands, is
especially tragic is that it is one of
a global problem of enormous
few global ecological problems
dimensions. A recent report spon-
clear solutions exist.
sored by the World Bank estimates
as living proof that
that 10-20 percent of the world's
makes soil conser-
dry lands suffer from significant
and sustainable
degradation. That represents 6-
and forestry a
12 million square kilometers of
national priority, trend need not
lands that can no longer produce

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