By Rabbi Paul R. (Shaul) Feinberg, Ph.D. '71
Rachamim Goren, of blessed memory, came to work at the Hebrew Union College, in Jerusalem, 40 years ago, with his brother Moshe Garawani. Here he discovered a campus and a way of life akin to "little house on the prairie." Rachamim grew and developed, becoming an integral part of the College family in this expanding flagship Reform Jewish institution, the youngest campus of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. Several generations of students, faculty and staff attest to the experience of his exhilarating personality, his spirit, and.....his voice, that went before him-echoing to this very day!!!
Rachamim was a great patriot, a pioneer ,a builder. He proudly held his head high: ' once a paratrooper always a paratrooper,' he would say with a characteristic wink of those shining eyes! Hjs irrepressible spirit was unabating- in moments of national celebration, and memorial. He mourned each fallen soldier and civilian as a national calamity, as a member of his own family.
Rachamim's incomparable devotion to the Land was continually manifested on and off the campus, with the same dedication he displayed to his own home. Rachamim's death at TuBishvat was especially telling! He looked forward to yearly visits with students to the Mevassert Tzion Absorption Center volunteer project, , joining in helping children to plant greens, later to be harvested at Pesach, as Karpas, for the Seder tables.
For decades he was the indefatigable mainstay at HUC Tel Dan excavations, as the veritable aide de camp of Professor Avraham Biran, Director of the Nelson Glueck School of Biblical Archeology. Here again the staff and volunteers, and Year In Israel students had added opportunities to get to know him: his passionate dedication, marvelous sense of humor, and untiring round the clock commitment!
This and more: his fierce loyalty to Rabbi Moses Cyrus Weiler, lecturer at HUC, was legend. He literally shepherded Rabbi Weiler around to Jerusalem area high schools, delivering scholarships in memory of Weiler's two sons, officers, fallen in Israel's wars.
Yes indeed, Rachamim literally carried the Campus on his back, his broad shoulders, even when excessive physical exertion was detrimental. Rachamim, it seemed was born to work, giving fit expression to his professional calling as head custodian. His care for the entire campus was truly a labor of love, from its founding as a "little house on the prairie "(aka King David Street)to a largely expanded Center, including URJ-NFTY; World Union for Progressive Judaism, Beit Shmuel, and the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism. The professionals and staffs in all these institutions adored him with Rachamim reciprocating these affections.
The Murstein Chapel too was a favorite site of his dedicated service! He relished special celebrations, and events, certainly including Purim. On one occasion, dressing up with the President's Academic gown he gladly took his part as honor guard at the reading of the Megillah. Professor Eliyahu Schleifer recounted how on one Shabbat, Rachamim agreed to sing, YIGDAL ELOHIM CHAI in distinctive Yemenite mode.
For 40 years former students returned on Shabbatot, eager to introduce their families to this campus icon. One could hear"....for Rachamim, time does not pass;" he lovingly assisted in passing out Kiddush, to the accompanying refrain:" Rachamim, Kishmo Kayne Hu: Rachamim-he is the embodiment of his name!"
We embrace his wife, beloved Ettie, their children and their children's children and all loved ones, remembering Rachamim for blessing.