March 15, 2007
Argentinian rabbi rides to the rescue
As a child, Rabbi Daniel (Dany) Mehlman was a congregant at Beit El, the Buenos Aires shul founded and headed by the charismatic and courageous Marshall Meyer, an American rabbi who lived in Argentina for 25 years.
Meyer was a disciple of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and carried on the humanistic teachings of his mentor.
Today, Mehlman is trying to continue that same tradition.
Mehlman studied for a year at Meyer's rabbinical seminary in Buenos Aires in the 1970s, then left Argentina soon after the military junta took power. He lived in Israel for many years, studying and working. But it wasn't until he was in his late 30s -- living in the United States, married and a father -- that he went back to formal rabbinical studies.
"I was one of the older applicants to the seminary," Mehlman said. "At the end of my entrance interview with a panel of rabbis, I was asked to give a closing statement. I wasn't sure what to say, so I told a story about my father, of blessed memory, with whom I was very close."
"When I was about 5, he was cheated by a business partner," he continued. "I heard him talk about it, and I said to him, 'So we've lost everything.' And he immediately said, 'No. No. We have not lost everything. We still have each other, and we have our friends.'"
Mehlman told the panel that this incident has been a guide to what's important to him: "I guess they must have liked that story, because I was accepted into the seminary, and at the age of 43 I became a rabbi."
At present, Mehlman is the rabbi at K'hilat Ha'Aloneem in Ojai and part-time rabbi at Beth Shalom of Whittier. In addition, he teaches at New Community Jewish High School in West Hills and teaches an introduction to Judaism course in Spanish at the University of Judaism.