There are powerful moments when life’s experiences bring deeper meaning to the Torah and her classic commentators. It was Shabbat, June 5, 1982. I was nearing the end of my first year abroad in Israel, and I spent that Shabbat in Haifa with my family. A few days earlier, on June 3, Israeli Ambassador to England Shlomo Argov was seriously wounded in an attack by three PLO terrorists. Reactions in Israel ranged from shock to outrage, and the winds of war were brewing.
Rabbi Daniel Bouskila, who left Sephardic Temple in February after a 17-year tenure at the Westwood congregation, was hired into a leadership position at the Sephardic Education Center (SEC), an international educational and cultural group headquartered in Los Angeles with a campus in the Old City of Jerusalem.
The year was 1993, and the glitterati of the L.A. Jewish community gathered at Shaare Tefila to honor Rabbi Meir Lau, the new chief Ashkenazi rabbi of Israel.
As the rabbi walked on the red carpet among other prominent rabbis and Jewish machers, he paused and looked toward a short, 63-year-old man who was serving drinks, and called out: "Avramale!"
The crowd wondered, "Who is this Avramale getting a hug from the chief rabbi?"
Avramale is Albert Lanciano, now 75, who today is the shamash/caretaker of Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel in Westwood. This year will mark his 10th anniversary as the synagogue's resident jack-of-all-trades.