From Geiger to the Thomaskirche with Joy

Crowd lined up outside Leipzig’s Thomaskirche to hear the St. Thomas Boys Choir sing the Motet service Friday afternoon. I had the honor of delivering the sermonic message at that service.

Last Friday** was one of those days I dream about but rarely experience.

In the morning, I had the joy of teaching a two and a half hour seminar on Repentance and Our Ability to Change in Jewish thought to rabbinical and Cantorial students at the Abraham Geiger College in Berlin.

Then Vickie and I traveled by train to Leipzig, the city where my father grew up and was arrested on Kristallnacht, November 9, 1938. There in the famed Thomaskirche, packed to the rafters because the famed St Thomas Boys Choir was singing the afternoon Motet service, I accepted the invitation of Pastorin Britta Taddiken and Pastor Martin Hunderdmark to be the main speaker in the service..

My theme was one I have touched on in many of the speeches I have given in synagogues, schools and churches during our stays the last four years in Germany:

Wir können die Vergangenheit nicht ungeschehen Machen aber wir können gemeinsam an einer besseren Zukunft arbeiten.

We cannot undo the past, but the future is ours to shape.

I spoke of the Torah potion read in synagogues that very Shabbat in synagogues around the world, a portion which contains the words inscribed on the Liberty bell in Philadelphia: 
“Proclaim Liberty throughout the land to all the inhabitants thereof.” (Leviticus 25:10).”

I noted that no country yet has achieved the type of world the Liberty Bell and the Bible urge us to create. God’s desire is for humanity to create a world of Freedom for all:

  • Freedom from hunger
  • Freedom from sexual abuse or harassment
  • Freedom from homelessness
  • Freedom from fear

And freedom from so many other things that testify to our failure to create the just, caring and compassionate society God has yearned for since the time of creation.

How grateful I am for the invitations to do these things that uplifted my spirit so.

But the next day was more sobering. I walked to the Zoo where the Nazis rounded up the 500 Jewish men they arrested that night known to the world as Kristallnachtbut in Germany as Reichspogromnacht.

There I stood at the monument where on Kristallnacht in 2014 I read a letter to the memory of my father (search for “A Letter to the Memory of My Father as I Stand at the Leipzig Zoo” on the blog). I also visited the site of Leipzig’s main synagogue, burned to the ground that fateful night. There a monument consisting of rows of empty chairs honors the memory of the 14,000 of Leipzig’s 18,000 Jews whom the Nazis murdered. I spoke there on Kristallnacht of 2014 as well (Search for “Synagogue Site Speech”) but on that night, I focused on my presentation. Today I slowly absorbed each and every word on the commemorative plaques, and I realized once again how blessed I am that my dad was rescued by political means from Dachau by his uncle and brother in the USA, which still had diplomatic relations with Germany at the time.

I also spoke at the Thomaskirche (search for “Thomaskirche Kristallnacht Speech – English Version”) that night to a much smaller crowd than attended last Friday. But that was a sorrowful commemoration. This year’s message was of aspiration and hope.

From the standpoint of emotion, speaking at these three places in 2014 exceeded the feelings of this past Friday, but the difference which made this years’ visit more exhilarating and joyful was the morning seminar at Geiger.

There I had the privilege of interacting with future rabbis and Cantors from five different countries who are there not to lament the fate of Europe’s Jews but to build the future of European Jewry.

At Geiger College last Friday, I also had the privilege of conducting the daily worship service. In it I asked the students and faculty present not just to recite the prayers but to look at just a few and ponder their meaning.

In particular I lingered over the Mah Tovu prayer at the beginning of the service (See blog post, “Before You Sing Mah Tovu Again, Please Read This.)

That prayer sits at the beginning of our service to remind us that try as they have over the centuries, no outside force can destroy us. Only we —through apathy and ignorance of our Jewish heritage – can destroy ourselves.

For me teaching at Geiger College and speaking as a rabbi in the city where the Nazis arrested my father is my pledge that I shall do what little I can to keep the flame of Jewish learning and practice aglow wherever and whenever I can.

**May 17, 2019

Exalting Our Power to Change

Below is the description of the seminar I shall offer for Rabbinical and Cantorial students at the Abraham Geiger College in Berlin on May 17, 2019. I hope they find it helpful.


Exalting Our Power to Change

Rabbi Stephen Lewis Fuchs D.Min, DD


“Where repentant sinners stand, even the wholly righteous cannot stand.” (Talmud Bavli Berachot 34B)


תשובה – (Teshuvah) Repentance is one of the cardinal principals of Jewish thought. While our tradition calls upon Jews to be aware of our actions and regretful of our wrongdoings at all times, the Days of Awe, culminating in Yom Kippur, is a season when the primary focus of our lives shifts from day to day needs to an intense period of self-examination in which to confess our sins to the Eternal One and resolve to do better in the future.

My Ulpan (intensive Hebrew learning program) teacher in Jerusalem, Sarah Rotbard, of blessed memory once said: “It is not just a gift for Jews that we conceived of the concept of Yom Kippur, it is a gift for all humanity.”

Indeed, our power to grow through our mistakes and change for the better is one of the most hopeful and positive traits of men and women.

Together we shall explore the concept of Teshuvah through biblical narratives and rabbinic teachings. We shall then discuss how they can affect our own lives and the lives of those whom we teach and influence.

In Leipzig Once Again — 2019



This Friday, my emotions will be high, as I climb the steep stairs of the preacher’s pulpit to speak once again in the famed Thomaskirche in Leipzig. To come as a welcome guest to speak in the city where the Nazis arrested my father on Kristallnacht, November 9, 1938 is a great privilege. But being there evokes many mixed feelings.  Here is what I shall say:

Standing before you in this magnificent cathedral, I recall the Psalmists words, “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:6)

I recall with sadness the weeping of Reichspogromnacht when my father Leo Fuchs was one of 500 Jewish men arrested in this city. But I savor the joy of the morning as Pfararin Taddiken welcomes me once again to this place as a gesture of friendship and hope for the future.

We cannot undo the past, but the future is ours to shape.

As I listen to the holy sounds of the beautiful Motets this afternoon, my heart turns to magnificent words on the Liberty Bell, the national symbol of American freedom, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.

In July 1974 the late Prime Minister of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin addressed a joint session of the American Congress and eloquently described learning the words on the Liberty Bell in their original Hebrew as a small child: U’kratem dror ba-aretz l’chol yoshveha– Proclaim liberty throughout the land to all of its inhabitants (Leviticus 25:10).”

Rabin pointed out that this cardinal foundation of democracy comes form the portion of the Torah Jews around the world will read this Shabbat.

דרור (Dror) Freedom, Freiheit (?) is a very special word in Hebrew, English or German. Freedom is what God wants for everyone:

  • Freedom from poverty
  • Freedom from War
  • Freedom from violence
  • Freedom from hunger
  • Freedom from homelessness
  • Freedom from excessive cold or heat
  • Freedom from sexual abuse
  • Freedom from forced labor and exploitation
  • And the freedom to choose how we use the abilities with which God has blessed us to make a better world.

It is not God’s job to create that world of freedom. It is ours.

One of the most famous stories in the Christian Bible is how Jesus fed 5000 people with only five loaves of bread and two fish.

The pastor of the Church, which houses our Jewish congregation in Sanibel, Dr. John Danner, suggests a different reading of the story. Perhaps, says Dr. Danner, Jesus encouraged everyone in the crowd to share just a little of what he or she had with others around them, and in that way there was enough food for all.

Each person could give only a little, but their collective contributions accomplished much.

Today, no country, not the United States not Israel and not Germany has yet achieved the freedom God wants all of us to enjoy. But we must never cease to try. As Rabbi Tarfon taught in the second century CE: “It is not incumbent upon you to complete the task, but neither are you free to desist from it. (Pirke Avot 2:21)

From the time of creation, God has wished for us to create a just, caring and compassionate society on earth. It is easy to state that goal but difficult to achieve it.

It is easy to give in to despair and anguish when we look at the world around us. Many do.

But isn’t it a better choice for each of us to do something—however small–to move the world closer to the day of which Isaiah dreamed when, “They shall not hurt or destroy in all God’s holy mountain (Isaiah 11:9).”

Can we not all make some effort to bring closer the time of which the Prophet Micah dreamed when:

“Each person will sit under his or her vine and fig tree with no one to make them afraid?” (Micah 4:4)

We cannot do everything, but we each can do something.

We might not cure cancer but we can give food or serve a meal to the hungry. We might not make peace in the world, but we can make peace in our homes.

We might not transform the quality of education around the world, but we can help a child learn to read. Possibilities abound.

Not being able to do everything is no excuse for doing nothing.

As we listen with awe and delight to the sounds of holiness and peace in this famed Cathedral, and as Jews prepare to welcome a Shabbat of peace and joy into our lives, let us all – each in our own way — think of how we might bring peace and joy into the lives of others.


May Peace Burst Forth Like Sunshine

Pastor John Danner and I comparing our prayers to place on the “Path to Peace” wall separating Israel from Gaza.

At 8 PM on the eve of Israel’s Day of Remembrance, a siren sounds, and the entire country stands still.

The siren sounds again at 11 AM and once again the entire nation pauses in its tracks to honor the memories of her soldiers killed in defense of the State.

It is a moving and necessary commemoration.

It is moving because Israel is a small country — small enough that there is not a family who has either lost someone dear or is closely connected to others who have. It is necessary because each of those privileged to live in this tiny land needs to acknowledge at what great cost Israel has thwarted the concerted attempts of its enemies — enemies that surround it on every border — to destroy it.

Hopefully too this solemn day reminds us of the horrible cost of all war. War has no victors, only victims.

As an ancient people and as a modern nation, Israel takes no delight in the death of its enemies.

  • There is empathic pity in the Book of Judges for the sorrow of the mother of Sisera, the fearsome Canaanite chieftain dispatched by Yael in (chapter 4 in the Book of Judges).
  • At our Passover Seders we diminish our joy by taking a drop of wine (wine in Jewish ritual is a symbol of joy. It never symbolizes blood) out of our cups for each of the ten plagues Egypt suffered.
  • The Talmud recounts that after the Egyptians were drowned in the sea, the angels began to sing praises to God. God silenced them saying it is not right to sing praises when “My creatures” are drowning. (B. Sanhedrin 79b)

Memorial Day in Israel also adds urgency to the quest for peace.

One of the most touching stops on our visit was to Netiv Ha-Asara, a settlement that sits on the edge of the Gaza Strip. A day earlier our visit to that place had been cancelled because Hamas shot hundreds of rockets at Israel over the  weekend. But with the signing of a cease fire and a return to quiet on the border, we could thankfully reschedule our visit.

There we learned firsthand of the pressure under which the residents live. They never know when with only seconds of warning they must stop what they are doing and scurry to the bomb shelters which are part of the construction of every  home, school and building in the area.

Still the residents insist on living normal lives.

Tsameret, a graphic artist in the area has initiated a remarkable project, Path to Peace. She is decorating the ugly separation wall, so necessary to protect Israel from infiltration by terrorists, with messages of peace and hope. She invites visitors like us to write our prayers and hopes for peace on tiles she has decorated with symbols and messages of peace. The peace messages are visible to those on both sides of the wall.

Our prayer is that Tsameret’s vision will one day become a reality, and we will see a time when Jews and Arabs live in peace, harmony and mutual cooperation. It seems a Quixotic vision.

But then again, it is no more Quixotic than Theodor Herzl’s vision of a Jewish State seemed in 1897 when he proclaimed prophetically, “If you will it, it is no dream.”

May peace burst forth like sunshine!

Vickie putting her prayer tile on the Path to Peace wall.

We Go Together in Israel

xNCTouR7QfqQSsMjqmk5LgAt the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem

As Christians and Jews we are on this journey together.

In the best of all worlds, I would not have chosen for us to travel to Bethlehem on Yom Ha Shoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.  Nor would I have picked that day to walk the Via Dolorosa and visit the Stations of the Cross where, according to Christian tradition, Jesus stopped before his crucifixion.

Although I would have chosen another day, those are vital spots for us all to visit. 

The next day we did what I would have wanted to do on Yom Ha-Shoah, visit Yad Va-Shem, Israel’s memorial to the victims of the Holocaust.  On Yom Ha-Shoah I am sure Yad Va-Shem was overrun with visitors. And the day after when we visited, it was very crowded too.

In Bethlehem I recalled the memory of my 1975 attendance at Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve (See my essay, “Andrea”) and my last tour of the Via Dolorosa in 1996.

I had a special reason to hire a Palestinian Christian guide to take me on a personal tour of Via Dolorosa that year. My good friend and tennis partner Rev. Steve Hancock had invited me to speak from his pulpit at the Second Presbyterian Church on Good Friday.

Now, Rabbis being invited to preach in churches is not unusual, but in those days a rabbi speaking in a Church on Good Friday was all but unheard of.

Why? Good Friday is the day the most anti-Jewish passages from the Gospel of John are read in churches. Historically Good Friday was the day when Christian preachers incited the population to pogroms against Jews in Eastern Europe and other places.

Good Friday was a day when Jews hid in fear of their lives.

It was not a day when Jews were welcomed to deliver sermons in Christian pulpits. It was also not a day when Christian Pastors followed their own worship by attending Passover Seders as Rev. Dr. John Danner and Rev. Deborah Kunkel of our partner church, Sanibel Congregational UCC did as most welcome guests this year.

How glad I am that we live in these days and not those.

But no one should ignore the ominous events of recent days. The shooting in Poway, California at a Chabad synagogue came six months after the horrible attack at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

Ours and many other congregations hire off duty police as a security detail during our worship services.

A few days ago, the International Edition of the New York Times published the most blatantly anti-Semitic cartoon one could ever imagine.

It depicted a blind President Trump with a kipah on his head led by a dog with a Jewish star around its neck, a dog with the face of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

That the New York Times published such a thing is an abomination. Their apology and their withdrawal of the cartoon do not undo the damage. These gestures are too little and too late.

But the trip shared by Bat Yam Temple of the Islands and Sanibel Congregational UCC is right on the money.

We know that anti-Semitism in particular and hatred in general are on the rise around the world.

We also know that our job is to understand, respect and affirm our legitimate differences.

But we also have the sacred obligation to forge our shared values into a force — greater than the sum of its parts — that works to build a better world for our children, grandchildren and all the generations to follow.

Safe In Israel II: The Attorney Saves the Rabbi

We enjoy a wonderful dinner at Asian restaurant as our group looks forward to its firs full day of touring tomorrow.


My lost luggage has been found, so all’s well that ends well on that score!

But it is a miracle that I got here at all.

The miracle worker was Attorney Barry Roth, who has spent more hours than anyone can imagine working out the logistics of our trip!

Barry graciously offered to drive me from Sanibel to Miami because he, his partner Ying and I were all on the same flights … or so we thought. But the absent minded rabbi failed to notice that his flight was leaving several hours earlier than Barry’s.

I realized my mistake when at a rest stop along Alligator Alley, I got a text saying my flight leaves in two hours.

It was then that Barry turned into a skilled race car driver.

He covered the distance to the airport in world record time, jumped out of the car, helped me curbside check my bag and because of him without a moment to spare I made my plane.

Now we are all here and ready for our tour. While the rest of the group enjoyed a marvelous tour of the City of David excavations, I had the privilege of speaking to a group of first year American Rabbinical and Cantorial Students at Hebrew UnionCollege in Jerusalem!

We are filled with excitement as we enjoy a scrumptious dinner at a wonderful Israeli Asian restaurant.

1000 thanks to Barry Roth for getting me here and arranging a trip I am sure no one will ever forget!

A Song For David


Rabbi David Sobel—In Memoriam

 Walking along Ben Yehuda Street in Jerusalem, Vickie and I met a man and his wife from Boston. As we chatted and learned we had lived in West Hartford, he asked, “Did you know David Sobel? He was a Rabbi in the Air Force and my chaplain when I served in Thailand in the 70’s.

Oh yes, I answered, I knew David.

We have learned: “He who sings, prays twice.” David Sobel’s life was a musical prayer of exquisite beauty and meaning.

Every time I visit the Congregation Beth Israel Cemetery in Hartford I stop by David’s grave. We began our studies together in the summer of 1968.  We played basketball and tennis together. He was a fine athlete.  He was a bundle of energy, and he played both games in an aggressive, take-no-prisoners style.  He loved life, and he loved music.

Mort Glotzer, of blessed memory, once shared these thoughts about David with me:

“The Sobels, Bea, Charles, Donna, David, Andy and Amy lived next door to my parents on Kirkwood in the Golf Acres section of West Hartford.  Bea was a president of the Temple Sisterhood. Charlie was active in the Brotherhood. Both Donna and David were members of the Senior Youth Group when Arline and I were the adult advisors.  The Sobel kids were among our favorites.

David was a fine athlete.  I believe that he wrestled in high school and college.  He worked as a construction laborer during summer vacations. He told me that he worked in the engine room of a freighter ship on his trip home after his year in Israel.  He was not afraid of hard work.

David was the student Rabbi at the Farmington Valley Jewish Center during his last year at Hebrew Union College.  One Friday afternoon, I met him on a flight that he boarded in Cincinnati.  I mentioned to a colleague of mine who sat next to him that he was a friend of mine. My colleague (a Christian) asked me if I knew that David was going to be a Rabbi and that he played in a rock band on Saturday nights.  I knew about everything except the rock band, but that didn’t surprise me.  David was a regular guy.

After his ordination, David served as a chaplain in the United States Air Force.  In a tragic accident he was killed in Bangkok.

One evening, Bea came over to my parents’ house to tell them that David had been killed in Bangkok.  We were stunned…the chief Chaplain from the Air Force preached at his funeral.  There was a military honor guard.  Bea wouldn’t allow a rifle salute.  It wasn’t the kind of honor that was appropriate for a Rabbi.”

Each time I see it David’s tombstone reminds me how fragile life is.  It is a gift we can lose in an instant.  Each visit to his grave is another reminder to try to make each minute of each hour of each day count for something meaningful and purposeful.  We never know when our time is up.

In a memorial tribute to David, navy chaplain Rabbi John J. Rosenblatt wrote: 

David felt that he was in God’s service to bring spiritual comfort where it was most needed.  Individuals were his congregation.  Open fields were his synagogues.”

David Mark Sobel was a son of Congregation Beth Israel of which I am Rabbi Emeritus.  The atmosphere and opportunities Beth Israel afforded him helped him become the man he was. “Alas for those who die with their songs still in them.”  I see David now, slashing toward the basket, going for broke by trying for an improbable winner on the tennis court, playing his guitar, speaking in the short clipped tones I remember, a kinetic, energetic force, small in stature, strong of body, persistent of mind.

His energy was so palpable that it is hard for me to imagine him gone even though he died more than 45 years ago. We played together.  We learned together.  Now he is gone, and I am still here.  Why?  I ask, but I know the question brings no answer.  I do know that thinking of David strengthens my resolve to use the time I have to make a difference.

When we think of those like David who died too young, we think also of the victims of last week’s tragedy in San Diego, the ones in Sri Lanka and Pittsburgh and the many that preceded them. We shudder in dreadful anticipation of next week’s tragedy. But David Sobel and all of those we have lost through war, terror or disaster, over the years can and do live on when they inspire us to be better people.

We cannot understand why they had to die, but we can honor their memories with more compassion for others, more zeal for good causes, more discipline for purposeful living and more strength to turn away from that which is foolish and vain.

“Repent one day before your death.”  The Sages taught.  But how do we know when we shall die, a student asked?

“We do not,” answered the Sages, “so we had better repent today, for none of us has a guarantee on tomorrow.” (Pirke Avot2:10)

 Alas for those who die with their songs still in them, but happy is their fate compared to those who sing no songs at all.  So let us sing as if there were no tomorrow, and may the melodies and lyrics of our lives find favor before the throne of The Eternal One.


Safe in Israel

After a long and somewhat harrowing journey including a still not delivered lost suitcase, I am safe in Jerusalem. With all we read about terrorism, “Safe in Israel” may seem like an oxymoron, but everything considered, I feel safer here than anywhere else in the world. 

Jet lag has a big effect on me, so even after a decent night’s sleep I am still tired. Today Vickie and I will do a bit of shopping to buy basic clothing in case my bag (God forbid!) doesn’t arrive.

Tomorrow I will lead a “Lunch and Learn” session for Hebrew Union College Rabbinical and Cantorial students before meeting up with our tour group for what promises to be an exciting and fulfilling ten days together.

Pastor John Danner and I have already conducted two 90-minute classes, while we were still in Sanibel, to give participants and others who attended an overview on the history and current reality of Israel. In addition Barry Roth and Alan Lessack have done an amazingly helpful and thorough job of briefing trip participants on all the particulars and logistics of the trip. Our group is ready to go.

That said unexpected things and not all of them pleasant — like my lost bag — might happen. I hope they do not, but if they do the most important antidote to these realities is the Hebrew word Savlanut.

Savlanutmeans, “Patience.” But it really goes beyond that. It means put the inconvenience you may experience in perspective of the bigger picture. Don’t let a minor mishap spoil a glorious trip. 

And have patience. As far as our trip goes, Pastor Danner, Alan, Barry and I will do our best to resolve difficulties that arise.

As for me, even if I have to wear the same clothes over and over and even if I have to hastily buy some clothes that I don’t really want or need, it is a small price to pay for the joy and the safety of being in Israel.


EWR — Newark Airport. It is a beautiful modern place, and I marvel at its opulence. It is also a place with vivid memories for me.

Newark Was the first airport to which I ever flew. As an eighteen-year-old freshman at Hamilton College, my first flight was home for Thanksgiving break, Utica NY to Newark, a one hour flight. It was such a special moment for me that I put on a suit for the occasion. Dad and Mom picked me up.

Newark Airport is also the last place I saw my father alive. I was a 24-year-old Rabbinical student off to spend my third year of graduate studies in Israel. Mom and Dad drove me to the airport.

These memories coursed through my mind as I landed at EWR from Miami en route to Tel Aviv. Pastor John Danner of Sanibel Congregational UCC and I are leading a joint Ten-day trip to Israel of Christians and Jews from our two congregations.

After the tour Vickie and I will stay on a few extra days to spend time with our son Leo, named after my father. On May 13 we shall fly to Hamburg to spend five weeks in Germany teaching about the Holocaust in schools. I will also teach in synagogues in Kiel and Friedrichstadt and at the Abraham Geiger Rabbinical Seminary in Berlin. I shall also speak and teach in several German churches.

An emotional highlight will occur when I preach at the famous Thomaskirche in Leipzig. Thomaskirche is the Church where Johann Sebastian Bach was Cantor for the last 20 years of his life until 1750. The church will be packed, not to hear me, but for the Motets, the famed choir-sung musical selections that are a major European tourist attraction. It will be the third time I have preached in the famous Cathedral, but my emotions will be like the first.

You see, Leipzig is the city where my father was born and grew up. He was a happy, popular youth, I was told, enjoying tennis and really excelling at ping pong. He won the city-wide men’s doubles championship at age fifteen.

But he stayed too long, and I’ll never know why.

He was one of 500 Jewish men in Leipzig arrested on the infamous “Night of Broken Glass,” November 9, 1938. But Dad was so fortunate to have an uncle and older brother in the United States who somehow got him out of Dachau and safely to New York. I never knew the details.

And so, when I climb the many stairs to the lofty pulpit in the Thomaskirche for the third time, the questions I would love to ask my father will swirl in my mind. Among them:

Why didn’t you leave earlier?

Did you ever have your heart broken?

What exactly happened to you on November 9, 1938 and the days following?

Are you pleased that Vickie and I do what we do in Germany?

Like the Thomaskirche in Leipzig Newark Airport brings memories and these questions to mind.

I yearn to hear my father’s voice answering my questions. But I. Do not.

Nevertheless, Vickie and I go forward. We urge Germans today to learn from the past in order to make the future better for our children, grandchildren and all those who will follow.

Cover of my new book reflecting on our work over the past four years and n Germany

Continuing My Comeback

Tee shirt — with the mantra I composed and my initials on my right shoulder—that I had made when I began my physical therapy.

If a couple conceived a baby on the day I underwent what my surgeon and physical therapist both called “massive” rotator cuff surgery, the baby would be due today. 

Nine months after the operation, which was followed by six months of three times a week physical therapy, I am on the way back to normal. It feels wonderful.

Of course, I still have a ways to go.

My left arm is still much stronger than my dominant right arm, and I am still very careful not to do too much. I am grateful that I only have occasional pain, and I am playing tennis two or three times a week.

Well, I am not really playing because I don’t serve and don’t hit overheads. I am waiting until I cross the one-year border before I do those things. Besides my wife would kill me if I did.

But I have put myself through several of (Beachview Tennis Club Pro) Toni Halski’s Tough Love Clinics with some of Sanibel’s better players, and I am able to keep up with the rapid pace and hold my own.  I also work with the ball machine, so I am getting a lot of reps in and, stroke-wise, I am pretty much back at the level I was before the operation.

Despite lots of gym work, I still need to improve my stamina and strength.

The real revelation of getting back to tennis is in how much joy I derive from it.

I am 73 years old, and I still get excited about being out on the court the next day. I spent many months waiting until I could do that.

On another note, my last Shabbat service for this season on Sanibel is tonight, and tomorrow, I leave for Israel where Pastor John Danner and I are leading a ten-day trip for members of both of our congregations. 

Then Vickie and I will fly to Germany for five weeks. There we will teach about the Holocaust in schools, and I will speak and teach in synagogues and churches. I will bring my bands with me to continue to strengthen my arm.

My surgeon, Dr. Thomas Dugdale, was very frank with me. “This is a fragile operation, and it could break down.”

That awareness is always in my mind. I will do all I can to keep that from happening, and I will also pray that it does not. 

When people ask me if prayer really helps, I respond, “It has never been known to hurt.”

But what I have learned is I must be grateful for every day I am able to enjoy the things I love most in life. The day will come for all of us when we cannot, so let us savor every happy experience and moment of joy that life offers.