July 9, 2008
The second time around, Dubin is still a mensch
(Page 2 - Previous Page)What Dubin lacks in ego, his two daughters make up for in pride.
"My dad is a legend," said Ruth Dubin Steinberg, 49, of Santa Barbara. "He has lived his life as an example to his friends and family. He deserves all the honor we can give him."
Her sister, Judy Dubin Aranoff -- who is associate cantor at Adat Ari El -- echoes the sentiment.
"I'm grateful that he is still vibrant and able to do a second bar mitzvah," said Dubin Aranoff, 54, of Van Nuys. "My dad is a people-person. I'm proud of the fact that so many people love and respect him. He genuinely cares about others and people relate to that. They see him as what he truly is: a great mensch."
Colleagues, family members and friends packed the synagogue to watch Dubin read from Parshat Chukat. As he followed the Torah around the sanctuary, many flocked to the aisles to shake his hand.
"Mazal Tov," one said.
"Here comes the bar mitzvah boy," joked another.
And on the bimah, a sight one doesn't see every day: Dubin Aranoff, who led the service, giving her father the traditional bar mitzvah blessing.
"I always get a blessing from my dad every Friday night on Shabbat," she said afterward. "Now I got to bless him."
After the service, Dubin was stopped every few steps on the way to the Kiddush by well-wishers -- classmates from the Jewish Theological Seminary, associates from the clergy and members of his first congregation in Baldwin Hills. He debated with several guests exactly how many decades it has been since he bar mitzvahed or married them.
Observations about Dubin among the crowd ranged from "a staunch defender of Conservative Judaism" to "such a sweet man."
One guest put his arm around Dubin and told him, "You're my favorite rabbi."
With his trademark humble wave, Dubin answered, "You must not know too many rabbis."
A couple of guests remembered Dubin from the Breed Street Shul, including Rabbi Harry Silverstein, son of the synagogue's longtime Rabbi Osher Zilberstein. The two friends grew up together in Boyle Heights and were schoolmates at the Jewish Theological Seminary.
"Pinky is a brilliant scholar," said Silverstein, 81, who drove in from the Westside. "He is very learned. People see that he is honest and sincere -- he means what he says."
Dubin's family is now carrying on his formidable legacy at the bimah.
Dubin Aranoff began leading High Holy Days minyans at UCLA Hillel while in graduate school. When she became pregnant with her first daughter, Dubin Steinberg joined her in 1984. The two sisters led the service, under Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller's direction, for almost two decades.
"I learned a lot about being on the bimah from my father," said Dubin Steinberg, who is assistant director of education at Congregation B'nai B'rith in Santa Barbara and teaches Judaic studies at Camp Ramah in Ojai.
This fall, Dubin Aranoff's two daughters, Ronit, 23, and Yael, 20, will pick up where their mother and aunt left off leading High Holy Days services at UCLA.
"I'm very proud," Dubin Aranoff said. "They realize it's a lot of work, but they've been hearing it literally since birth."
Dubin Steinberg's older daughter, Gaby, 16, is currently studying in Israel. And her younger daughter, Talya, 11, is awaiting her own bat mitzvah -- although her ideas for the rite of passage might differ a bit from her grandfather's.
"No, I did not want a 'theme,'" Rabbi Dubin said with a grin. "I did not want a fancy party based on the Titanic."
During the service at the Valley Village synagogue, Dubin shared with the congregation one significant lesson he has learned during the past 70 years.
"In my young years I thought everything must have a neat answer -- one answer to every question," he said. "In the seminary I struggled with this. Then, when I graduated and started to work with people, I began to realize that not everything has a neat answer. There is a place for the unknown, and occasionally it is necessary to take a leap of faith."
After Adat Ari El's Rabbi Elianna Yolkut praised Dubin's strides in tikkun olam (healing the world), she noted that few in the Jewish community hadn't felt the effects of his work.
"Everyone who has been touched or influenced by Rabbi Dubin, please stand," she told the congregation.
Almost every person in the sanctuary rose.
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