|The ‘Seltzer Selebration’ sizzles|
|By Nancy Kirsch|
|Friday, 08 June 2012 00:32|
| 400 Jews concur: It’s bittersweet |
PROVIDENCE – Temple Emanu-El rocked with an outpouring of energy and emotion, tributes to Rabbi Joel and Eliana Seltzer – both spoken and sung – and plenty of food and music at the “Seltzer Selebration” on the evening of Sunday, June 3.
The evening’s official “goodbye” to the Seltzer family – who will leave Providence for Philadelphia in the next few weeks – was deemed by one and all as “bittersweet.”
Ruth Page Levin said, “I have such mixed emotions; my heart is breaking. I feel like [Joel’s] grandmother and their kids feel like my great-grandchildren.”
Bethany Sutton and Alison Walter, event co-chairs, said the event, with 400 people attending and many more turned away due to space constraints, was a sell-out.
A wide array of Emanu-El-related groups and individuals “roasted and toasted” Rabbi Seltzer though an erratic sound system and the din of enthusiastic and energetic children of all ages made hearing those “roasts and toasts” somewhat challenging.
Led Shleppelin, the synagogue’s house band, presented him with a framed Led Shleppelin t-shirt.
The daughter of a Camp Ramah executive and Emanu-El’s Ritual Director Hinda Eisen (who will also leave the synagogue shortly to complete her cantorial studies in Boston) urged Rabbi Seltzer: “Always take your day off. Have dinner with your wife…[things] won’t fall apart.”
Mark R. Feinstein, synagogue board president, gave Rabbi Seltzer, who coordinated Emanu-El’s annual Educational Weekend, “Silk Threads: Jewish-Chinese Connections,” a gift of Chinese art work.
Miriam Abrams-Stark, director of congregational learning, and Gershon Levine, executive director, lauded Rabbi Seltzer, as did Cantor Brian Mayer. That both men love baseball was evident: “When an all-impact player comes to a small market and makes this a great team, and then the big market calls, it made perfect sense to me,” Cantor Mayer said.
Although it’s “ouch for us, but good for you, and good for the Jews,” said Cantor Mayer who told Rabbi Seltzer that what he does in a 12-minute sermon is “outstanding.”
Rabbi Wayne Franklin told the audience of a game of “Jewish geography” he had played with Rabbi Joel Seltzer, when the young rabbi had come to interview for the position at Emanu-El. “We… discovered that we had both had been profoundly shaped by a place that… is truly a scenic gem – our Camp Ramah [Rabbi Seltzer’s future employer]. [His] life was enriched there… and [he has] drawn on those experiences and many others to create a multitude of celebratory, joyous moments for us here at Emanu-El… [He has] helped people clear their own paths through the complexities of life.”
In an emotion-choked voice, Rabbi Franklin continued, “Our hearts are filled with feelings and gratitude and appreciation…You take with you our thanks, our blessings and our best wishes for your continued success.”
Rabbi Seltzer’s wife Eliana, a Jewish Community Day School (JCDS) teacher, also drew praise from JCDS Head of School Renee Rudnick and students. “A positive spin is the essence of Eliana, a generous spirit who always seems to give others the benefit of the doubt,” said Rudnick. “She has a… good eye, seeing obstacles as challenges and puzzles.”
Finally, Rabbi Seltzer – the man of the hour – took the stage. Visibly moved by the outpouring of affection he and his wife received, he began his comments with thanks to everyone in the room – his in-laws, Sutton and Walter and their families and Emanu-El’s janitorial, clerical and professional staff members, clergy and lay leaders.
Rabbi Seltzer said that the times he saw congregants or others at services, in the hospital or at a class represented the “greatest moments of holiness.”
To Eliana, he said publicly, “Four years ago, we came with a rental car and a dog. Four years later, we leave with my two proudest accomplishments – Ayelet and Talia, two native Rhode Islanders. [You are] an incredible support on our journey. The blessing of home is wherever you are.
“I came here for Wayne,” said Rabbi Seltzer, citing advice he received from his father-in-law, himself a rabbi, that the most important decision is to choose a senior rabbi you love.
“No one works harder for this shul than you, Wayne.” He is, said an emotional Rabbi Seltzer, “my mentor, teacher, beloved friend. You are my rabbi – that means everything to me.”
Garnering not one but two standing ovations during the course of the evening, Rabbi Seltzer said, “Visit, call, email. It’s a lifetime guarantee. My door is open. You are family and we love you so much.”