September 1, 2008 | 4:10 am
Posted by Karmel Melamed
Below is a eulogy I prepared and was asked to present at a memorial service on August 28th at the Nessah Synagogue in Beverly Hills for my dear friend Benjamin Davidoff. Unfortunately due to time restrains and other speakers speaking for long periods, I was not given the chance to share my words with the audience. However, below is the eulogy entirety and sheds light on what a great hearted man the late Davidoff was in helping the local Iranian Jewish community. Sadly this joyful man in his early 70’s suddenly died two weeks ago, leaving his friends and community members who loved him completely broken hearted. I had written previously about Davidoff as well as his synagogue “Or Emona” and that posting can be found here.
On behalf of my own family and my grandparents Mr. & Mrs. Khorramian, I would like to offer my most heartfelt condolences to Mrs. Davidoff, her children, the Davidoff family and the other grieving families. May they find comfort of the heart during these difficult days, weeks and months to come. I sincerely thank the Davidoff family for honoring me with this special opportunity to convey my thoughts about Mr. Benjamin Davidoff of blessed memory.
It is with a heavy heart that I share my thoughts and fond memories of my dear friend Benjamin Davidoff with you. I cannot begin to express the shock and sorrow I felt after learning of his sudden death last week. For nearly 15 years I had the special privilege of knowing Mr. Davidoff both as a close friend while I attended the ‘Or Emona’ synagogue and also as a journalist for the Los Angeles Jewish Journal who interviewed him on some occasions. With his bright rosey cheeks, warm eyes and infectious smile, he brought pure joy to me as a young man attending Or Emona’s Shabbat morning and services during Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. When most of the older gentleman in the synagogue did not embrace nor welcome me since I was a teenager who did not understand some of the formal Persian language spoken, Mr. Davidoff was always first to greet me and to offer me the honor of saying a prayer for the Torah reading. Unlike many in the older generation of our community, he clearly understood that the only way for Iranian Jews in America to retain their Judaism is through encouraging our youth. But I was not the only recipient of Davidoff’s kindness, hundreds of other much younger kids from the community received candies, sweets and gifts that he purchased for them to make their trip to the synagogue a fun experience, rather than a boring chore. At a time when many of my own relatives did not attend “selihoot” services at our new home, Mr. Davidoff honored us with his presence and gave us joy. As many of the other speakers tonight will tell you, he had a heart of pure gold and the sole objective of doing what was right in this life. Mr. Davidoff accomplished his good deeds by his contributions to the up keeping and organizing Or Emona’s services—not to mention the countless funds he help raise for a long list of Jewish and Israel charities. He made me proud to call myself an Iranian Jew by his behavior which was not preaching about Judaism but rather physically implementing the mitzvoth of the Torah in his everyday life. To say Mr. Davidoff was one of the rare special angels in this community would be an understatement!
Our holy Torah teaches us that each Jew is responsible for his fellow Jew. I cannot think of very many individuals in the Iranian Jewish community besides Mr. Davidoff that fulfilled this rare mitzvah. Many of you may not be aware, but Mr. Davidoff was one of a few Jews in Iran who during the early 1950’s risked his life and paid from his own pocket to aid the Jews who had escaped from Iraq into Iran. On a few occasions he sat down with me to explain how he paid the bail at different jails in the small towns and villages through out Iran so that hundreds of Iraqi Jews who were imprisoned for entering Iran illegally, would be released. “They were innocent Jewish families who had escaped from Baghdad and other places in Iraq with no money and were forced to leave their lives behind, so I thought I had to help them,” Mr. Davidoff told me during an interview. At a time when Jews were enjoying unprecedented prosperity and freedom of the Pahlavi dynasty in Iran, one man named Benjamin Davidoff took the initiative to share those special freedoms with his fellow Jews from Iraq. These Jews who had fled Iraq and entered Iran, then made their way to Israel, thanks in part to the help of an angel like Mr. Davidoff. As a gift for his generosity and support, one Iraqi Jewish family even gave him a precious jewel—but that gift was unnecessary for a man like Mr. Davidoff, who himself was the most precious jewel of all.
I could go on and on about Mr. Davidoff and his good deeds, but I don’t believe he would want that. Dear friends, I know that as a final message to you and our community, he would urge us to seek greater unity and harmony as Iranian Jews, to set aside our jealousies over foolish material items and cease from unnecessary lashon-hara. Mr. Davidoff was a man who sought to bring healing and comfort to those whom he met, especially other Jews and this too should be our aspiration to achieve. Before you leave tonight, please ask yourselves what legacy would you as a Jew living America like to leave? Do you wish to only achieve the material through wealth and business alone? Or would you like to be comforted with the belief that you helped transformed your fellow man’s life for the better, just as Mr. Davidoff accomplished?
I leave you with the prayer of Moses that Mr. Davidoff gave me on a few occasions; “may the lord bless you and keep you, may the lord make his glory shine upon you and act kindly toward you. May the Lord turn his glory on your and you shalom. Amen.
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