Men Of The Year

When asked who inspired you the most in 2012, two writers responded: my dad.

By Danielle Beda

My father, Bobby Beda, is the person who inspires me the most. I don’t come from an observant background. My dad grew up not keeping the Sabbath. We would drive, talk on the phone and turn the lights on and off. Every Shabbat I felt guilty for what I was doing.

After my grandpa got sick, my Dad turned to the one who gave us life and he promised to be a better person in return for God’s healing powers. From then on my Dad started obeying the laws that our Creator gave to us. First he did little things, such as holding the door open for someone or giving tzedakah. Then he moved on to bigger mitzvot such as keeping Shabbat. 

My father would do anything for me even if it means sacrificing what he loves. I stopped driving on Shabbat and so did my father, in order to respect me. My family would be speaking “lashon harah” (evil speech) and my Dad would look at me knowing I felt uncomfortable and would ask my family to stop gossiping.

My dad once told me that God will always be there for me no matter the circumstance and his message stays with me every day. Good day or bad day, the second I get home my dad lightens the atmosphere of the room. Whether I have too much schoolwork or I feel sad, when dad walks into the room all my worries disappear; I can feel God’s presence with him. When my dad looks at me he takes some of my pain away.

My dad is a good Jew and an outstanding person. He is constantly helping the less fortunate and has a huge heart. He is definitely the most beloved person in the world not just to me but to everyone he comes into contact with. He loves everyone and makes those around him feel cared for.

My dad inspires me every day. He turned his life around and he motivates me to keep going even when I feel like Hashem isn’t answering my prayers.

 

By Rachel Chazanoff

Rachel Chazanoff pictured with her father, Alan Chazanoff. There is a shul in Bensonhurst called the Magen David Synagogue that is very important to Syrian-Jewish heritage. It is the first Syrian synagogue to be built in America, an historic landmark and beautiful shul. My family has been going there since the synagogue opened in 1921; some call it the “Mother Synagogue of the American Syrian Jewish community.” However, I’m sure most people haven’t heard of the Magen David Synagogue, even other Syrian Jews.

Every Shabbat there are just enough people to make a minyan, not more, not less. The only reason they have a minyan is because of my dad. He walks to that shul every single Shabbat regardless of the weather or the fact that we live more than two miles away. He makes sure he is in attendance and gathers additional men from nearby shuls so 10 men can pray together. He also builds the sukkah on Sukkot and makes sure there is food served for the holidays.  

The shul is neglected by community members and is known as the “funeral shul” since funerals are frequently held there. The sanctuary used to be filled to capacity on Shabbat, weekdays and High Holy Days, but now it is nearly empty, even on important holidays such as Yom Kippur and Shavuot.

“I love it,” said my dad, Alan Chazanoff, about the synagogue. “I love its history. I love the people who continue to pray in it. I love the stories and tunes I am imbued with from my uncle, the incomparable Mickey Kairey. I love the deep respect I have for of each of its devoted congregants. I love the people who prayed here in the past that continue to envelop me each time I enter and help to make up its rich tenor and fabric. I love its architectural beauty and simplicity that is almost devoid of any modern conveniences. I love the stained glass windows inscribed with the Ten Commandments and the way the sun peaks through the glass on a sunny day. But most of all, I am overwhelmed and humbled each Saturday morning that Hashem has blessed me with the opportunity and profound privilege to pray in this shul as I have for most of my life.”

One of the people who always makes the minyan is my great, great Uncle Mickey. My Uncle Mickey is an extraordinary man whose wife died a couple of years ago. He was beside himself with grief and needed companionship.

My father visits Uncle Mickey frequently. They share memories and talk about my uncle’s days as a soldier during World War II. They also listen online to the Jewish tunes recorded by my uncle and sing along to the exceptional melodies. My dad makes sure Uncle Mickey has food to eat on Shabbat and he bought a new television after Uncle Mickey’s television broke. My father is a very giving man, particularly when it comes to his family.

My father’s admirable and thoughtful acts inspire me to be a good, Jewish person. He inspires me to perform chesed (good deeds) outside of my comfort zone. Every Friday afternoon, I deliver challot to elderly Jews who don’t have any company for Shabbat.

I try to attend all the Yachad events that my school hosts — we socialize with Jewish people who have mental disabilities. Seeing the smile on their faces when you dance and communicate with them makes you want to continue to attend Yachad programs.

What I think is most honorable about my father is that he’s humble about everything he does. He doesn’t want to publicize his good deeds; he keeps quiet about them. He doesn’t seek attention and approval from other people. What matters to him is that he did chesed for those people and not for himself. He does it so other people can benefit and his actions cause others to follow in his footsteps, including myself. I am truly encouraged to do more for my community and will continue to do chesed just like my father.
 

author's bio: 
Danielle Beda and Rachel Chazanoff are juniors at the Yeshivah of Flatbush in Brooklyn.  

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