I thought Dick Scheuer would live forever…at least I hoped he would live forever. He seemed to get younger in so many ways, open to new ideas new directions that those much younger would resist. Who else was rooted in the artistry and science of archeology, digging centuries back and at the same time, plant (and I used that word intentionally) a kindergarten on the Jerusalem campus of Hebrew Union College …his campus. Dick was an evergreen!
How he would marvel each year at the incoming class of rabbis, cantors, and educators, young men and women coming for a year to city he loved to the land that he cherished. Dick was a feminist before there was a word for feminism. He wanted to see women in leadership in every field. His vision and unwavering support made it possible for that kindergarten to grow to a school, middle school, and high school. He understood that this Progressive Jewish educational system in Jerusalem was crucial for a city struggling to remain open and pluralistic, and for all of Israel. As was the campus of our Jerusalem College, a beacon of beauty and majesty, a home for the Reform Movement worldwide. Our Jerusalem campus mourns for Dick, from our gardening and maintenance staff to the senior administration. But generations of students in all our programs, American and Israeli, from children and graduate students, walk taller, stand more firm, and indeed celebrate his faith in them. I know that I do!
We read in Psalm 92: "The righteous man springs up like the palm tree, like the Lebanon Cedar he towers, Planted in the house of the Lord, in the courts of our God they flourish. They bear fruit still in old age, fresh and full of sap they are, to tell that the Lord is upright, my rock, there is no wrong in God."
Dick was a cedar, the pillar of his family that he loved so much, Joan, Marion, Jonathan, and Daniel, his 11 grandchildren who never ceased to engage him, he loved your dreams and your adventures. He was like the cedars upon which we built our House of Holy work in Jerusalem, that stunning campus. He was also a palm tree, that nurturing , nourishing oasis in the wilderness. Life joys and sorrows could be experienced with a steady hand and a generous heart. In all his years, his boundless curiosity, his sharp intellect, his sense of beauty in art and music, his keen interest never waned, never tired and made him a constant and consummate student (and therefore, a great teacher). At 90 he recommended, the best book he ever read", describing the political life of Abraham Lincoln: A Team of Rivals. That too captures the spirit he brought to his lay leadership, he wanted the best in all of us out there, knowing full well that there were big egos and big dreams that could easily clash. He was a great listener, his comments precise and thoughtful. His deep respect for the professionals who did the work, was a source of unending inspiration for us.
A few years ago, Dick wanted to honor all the principals and teachers in our Progressive school system, throw a party for all the years of work that had successfully established the Kindergarten through High School. He wanted the party to be about me. I of course, wanted it to be about him. The more each speaker celebrated him, the more he kept talking about us. In fact, he simply refused to understand that the party was about him. We even got the Prime Minister’s office to write a letter. As I stand here among so many people who loved him as I did, I can hear him telling us to stop focusing so much on him and get back to doing the work he so believed in.
Dick, with your legacy of renewing each day, staying forever young…we will go back to work.