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The number of deadly and terrifying tragedies in our world today is beyond belief… except we have to believe, because it’s all true.

Pandemic, war, fires, floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes; not to mention anti-vaxers and the fast-spreading Delta variant, and a truly awful anti-abortion law in Texas. We’re wearing masks everywhere again, and my shul’s High Holiday services will be on Zoom instead of in our new home.

I am overwhelmed. And my guess is that most of you are too.


There are some bright lights. And one of those lights shone brightly Friday as we said farewell to a member of my congregation who died this week.

Marden Paru was a bright light all by himself. Through his second career as an educator in Sarasota, he strove to ensure that quality adult Jewish education was available to all – affiliated and non-affiliated Jews alike, as well as non-Jews. Before moving to Sarasota he had a long career serving Jewish communities in the US and Canada. It’s safe to say that through his life’s work, he changed lives for the better.

Friday morning I stood in the hot Florida sun at the cemetery and watched masked people stream in, despite the heat, despite Covid. And then I glanced at my cell phone, where I was broadcasting and recording the service on Zoom, and saw that I was right to have expanded the number of participants our account could accommodate.

Hundreds of people gathered, virtually and in person, to honor the memory of a quiet, unassuming man. A man who wasn’t famous, doesn’t have his name on buildings, who was simply a loving son, husband, father, grandfather, and lover of all things Jewish.  

His life is an inspiration to everyone who ever despaired, who ever thought that they might not be able to make a difference, or change the world for the better. You don’t have to be rich or famous. You just have to care and do your best. Like Marden.

I read a poem at his service by Hannah Senesh. The translation is by Fradle F., another member of my synagogue, Kol HaNeshama.

Yesh Cochavim – There are Stars

There are stars whose light reaches earthward
Only when they disappear and are gone.
There are people who continue to light up the world
Even when they are no longer among us.
Such brilliance glows in the darkness of night.
These lights — these are the ones that illuminate our way.

Hannah Senesh