Readers’ Tributes To Chezi Goldberg, a”h

Wisdom Will Be Missed

I am writing to express my deepest condolences to the family of Chezi Goldberg on the brutal murder of their husband and father. I am an American Jew and a religious Zionist who unfortunately never had the privilege of meeting your husband and father. However, I faithfully read his columns every week in The Jewish Press and found them to be full of practical and uplifting advice about life in Israel. The loss of his column and his wisdom will be sorely missed.

May you comforted among all the mourners for Zion and Jerusalem. And may the terrorists finally be defeated so that we Jews can live in peace and security in Medinat Yisrael.

Rebecca Witonsky
(Via E-Mail)

Helped So Many

I was saddened and shocked to learn of the death of Chezi Goldberg. I had met Chezi and received much chizuk and advice from him, so this tragedy is all the more real to me.

As the former national director of Tehilla, I was constantly referring potential olim to him to help with issues of children and their adjustment to Israeli society. Chezi always showed such sensitivity to all children, and his expertise in dealing with teenage olim was invaluable to many parents and children. Because of him, numerous families were able to make a successful transition to a new life in Israel.

He will be sorely missed. May his wife and children be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

Chavi Eisenberg
(Via E-Mail)

Chezi’s Corner In Gan Eden

Baruch Dayan Haemet.

Although we didn’t know Chezi personally, we know his brother Chaim, ybl, and family here in Toronto. We enjoyed his thought-provoking and challenging articles in The Jewish Press every week.

What can we say? It’s a tragedy beyond words, first to his beautiful family, and to Klal Yisrael – to the many people he helped and influenced. Chaval al deovdin velo mishtakchin.

He is surely in a special “Chezi’s Corner” in Gan Eden and he will be a meilitz yosher for klal Yisrael in front of Hashem to finally end our terrible galus and bring the geulah bimherah.

Hamakom yenachem etchem betoch shaar aveilei zion veyerushalayim, velo tosifu ledaavo od.

Leah and Yossi Lebovics
Toronto, Canada

One Of My Teachers

Although I never met Chezi, I had often read his Jewish Press column wherein he counseled readers of all ages on how to deal with difficult situations. Chezi was in many ways a pioneer in his field. Despite my own credentials in psychology and neurology, I learned from Chezi and considered him one of my teachers.

On occasion Chezi would allude to the stress of living with terrorism, day in and day out, in his special, matter-of-fact but personal way. Alas, now he too is a victim.

So many of us living in the Diaspora are so removed from the day-to-day tragedies in Eretz Yisrael. Many of us waste so much time and energy on petty things, getting upset over trivialities, and going about living superficial lives.

Across the ocean there are people who live their lives with meaning and suffuse their existence with acts of chesed. They courageously live with the knowledge that one day, with little or no warning, their lives may be snuffed out – or they may be horribly scarred for life – by evil forces bent on the destruction of everything we hold sacred.

As a child, I often thought about how American Jews acted and reacted while millions of their brethren died in Europe. Did they go about their daily lives, arguing about train schedules and promotions and who deserved which kavod (honor) in shul?

We can all learn a lesson from heroes such as Chezi Goldberg. We should strive to live our lives with purpose, caring, and conviction, helping others and always aware that our physical lives may come to an end but our good deeds live on forever.

May his memory be blessed.

Prof. Shmuel Leib
Zacharowicz, MD, MA
Far Rockaway, NY

He Pulled No Punches

A sledgehammer hit us in our hearts just a few days ago and has left us reeling. Chezi Goldberg, a weekly guest in thousands of living rooms around the globe, was bigger than life. His vibrancy and passionate devotion to his profession was palpable. The thoughts he committed to writing in his Jewish Press column pulsated with a rhythm of energetic caring and empathy.

He certainly had a way of getting to the core of a topic, and he pulled no punches. He came across as robust and hearty, with an enthusiasm that was catchy. Having no first-hand knowledge of his practice overseas, I can only imagine that he had a devoted following who depended on him to carry them through some real (or imagined) hardships.

Mr. Goldberg himself wrote so poignantly in his Lifeline column only this past October, “I, along with countless others, were frozen into a time warp of despair. How could we go on after such a loss?…How could the friends go on after such a loss?” He was referring to the Applebaum tragedy, even as he was taking chizuk from Sherri Mandell’s book, “The Blessing of a Broken Heart.”

“Life will never be the same again, ” Chezi wrote in that column. Indeed it won’t. Hopefully, his family will draw fortitude from the legacy this special human being left behind. In a life cut tragically short, he manifested endless stamina in strengthening others. Undoubtedly, he will continue to utilize his courageous stance in pleading on High for his bereaved loved ones, and for all of Klal Yisrael.

Rachel Weiss
(Via E-Mail)

Open And Straightforward

I first heard Chezi speak a few years ago, and everything he said was so true and so helpful. I followed all his articles over the years and signed up for his e-mail list – I was probably one of the first subscribers. I was so eager to read everything he wrote. I would bring in the new mail in the morning, with a cup of coffee in hand, and scan the incoming mail. Before reading anything else, even letters from close relatives, if there was a new article from Chezi, I opened
that first.

His style was so open, so straightforward – he didn’t use big, fancy words or beat around the bush, but told it like it is. He told the truth. He didn’t shy away from topics that make people uncomfortable, and he didn’t try to gloss over problems. He laid it all out on the table, addressed the issues, and offered ways and strategies to help.

Why does Hashem take away the people whom we need so badly? I shudder to think of all the teens and families who are in the middle of therapy with him, who knew that he was just a phone call away to offer help and guidance and avert crises. What will they do now? He was in the prime of his life, with so many more years ahead and so many more people to help.

He once wrote, after the triple suicide bombing on Ben Yehuda in Jerusalem a couple of years ago, that we are so numb, that we have forgotten how to cry and that we must find our hearts again, feel the pain, and cry out to Hashem. I am crying for all those killed in the terrorist attack last Thursday and for all those wounded. I am crying for the families whose loved ones were torn away from them so violently before they could say good-bye, before they could give
one last hug.

Chezi’s latest series of articles, and a new support group he was starting, focused on helping new olim, particularly children, adjust to life in Israel. He wrote that parents make the decision to come on aliyah and that even if the kids are happy with the decision, the parents need to be very sensitive to their needs and difficulties at every stage of the way, talking with them and getting any necessary help from the outside. As usual, everything he wrote on the subject was so true, so straightforward, so on the mark.

Whenever I receive an especially poignant or interesting e-mail which I think I may want to re-read in the future, I save it in a separate folder. Yesterday, I scrolled down in that folder and saw that every sixth or seventh article was by Chezi. I think I must have saved just about every article he wrote because I wanted to read them again and again and share them with my children and with my friends and their children.

I am heartbroken for Chezi’s family. May Hashem grant his wife and children comfort among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

Shira Schreier
Efrat, Israel

The Blood Of His Servants

I hear the news that more Jews were murdered when an Arab blew up a crowded bus in the heart of Jerusalem, and am as angry and sickened as I normally am when I hear of a horror like this. Then I see that at the very same time, Israel is releasing 400 Arab terrorists, and I am mortified and outraged. Then I see the usual lack of meaningful response by the government, even as Arafat’s Fatah says it blew up the bus, killing and maiming five dozen Jews, and I can only scream out to Hashem to destroy that monster and the rest of our enemies.

Then, a couple of hours later, I receive an e-mail from Nefesh, the organization of Torah- observant mental health professionals of which I am a member. The subject line says, Chezi Goldberg, z”l. Oh, no. No.

I had presented a program together with Chezi and other colleagues at the Nefesh International Conference in Jerusalem just a few days before. I met Chezi for the first time the morning of our presentation, and was impressed with him immediately. I also liked him immediately. He was a special soul, someone who said it straight but who said it with humor and with the deep knowledge of someone who worked for years in the trenches, with kids who were so lost there was no hope left for them to come back. I sensed he had a power to touch many people and help them immeasurably.

He connected with kids who didn’t make it in yeshiva; who were abused; who were discarded by their families. He understood them, spoke their language, took the time to find out where they came from, and in many cases, saved their lives.

Chezi struck me as someone who knew what he could do, who knew how to use the gift that Hashem had given him, but at the same time could laugh at himself with self-deprecating humor and humility.

We ate lunch together at the conference, and after it was over we exchanged thanks via e-mail for the assistance we provided each other at our program. Then, Chezi e-mailed: “I love it when I meet a new friend that I like. Don’t worry, you’ll do fine here; just give it time, friend.”

Those words meant a lot to me when I read them for the first time. Now they mean even more.

I can only scream out the words we say every Shabbos: Av Harachamim, Who dwells on high, in His powerful compassion may He recall with compassion the devout, the upright, and the perfect ones; the holy congregations who gave their lives for the Sanctification of the Name – who were beloved and pleasant in their lifetime and in their death were not parted from G-d.

May He, before our eyes, exact retribution for the spilled blood of His servants, as is written in the Torah of Moses: “For He will avenge the blood of His servants and He will bring retribution upon His foes; and He will appease His land and his people.”

Kain yehi ratzon.

Casriel Accardi
Kochav Yaakov, Israel

Remember What He Stood For

The weather conspires to make us forget. It’s been close to perfect this winter; first a day or two of soaking, replenishing rain, the thirsty earth transformed from crumbling dust to a rich,
nourishing brown. After comes the crystalline blue sky, washed clean of any distracting haze, bathing everything in defining sunlight.

The acres of fields around us have burst into an astonishing Technicolor emerald, a green so rich only the scent of freshly cut grass confirms it is indeed real.

The tourists are back too. On Monday, I found myself in a Jerusalem packed with chattering,
shopping visitors, their too loud voices and flashy clothing no longer annoying but bold statements of support and connection. Tuesday I was in Tel Aviv and met with the same vibrancy. And so we convince ourselves normalcy has returned. Look at our bustling cities, our flowering hillsides. We wrap ourselves in layer upon layer of proof that everything is okay. That life here is thriving with normalcy, the danger is removed. After all, we’re human.

We long to forget, to look at a sunset and enjoy its beauty without the tinge of morbidity as it
sinks beneath the surface of the earth. A sound is all it takes to rip the cocoon of illusion we’ve spun around ourselves. An explosion rips across the hushed quiet of a suburban morning and we are thrown back to a place we left only in our minds. Like the roof of the bus, ripped off into the sky, we land in a landscape littered with human debris. Eleven killed, 50 wounded, 20 severely. Sixty families reconfigured forever. The loss of my own illusion of safety pales in comparison.

And still the instinct for distancing preserves itself. They lived in Jerusalem, I live in Beit
Shemesh. I didn’t know any of them, did I? My family and friends are okay, right? In an instant, an event taking place less than 20 miles away, on a block I walked down three days earlier, is cast as someone else’s tragedy, an occasion for sighing and shaking my head, for lingering on an Internet page a moment longer than usual. I was checking my e-mail last night right before ushering a client into my office.

Scanning the local e-mail list, I saw the usual chatter about sales of chopped liver and rides
needed. Only one ride request stopped me short. Anyone going to the funeral of Yechezkel Goldberg who has room for one please call… Like a nightmare field of mushrooms, the e-mails kept coming. We regret to announce the funeral of Yechezkel Goldberg, victim of this morning’s bus bombing… May G-d avenge his blood.

I knew Yechezkel – Chezi – Goldberg. A therapist working with scores of troubled teens. A
widely read columnist for The Jewish Press. I met him right after making aliyah. I used to bump into him almost weekly in Jerusalem. We passed each other on the way to our offices. He always greeted me with a huge smile. Sometimes we had time to talk a little, sometimes we didn’t, but always he gave me that generous hello. I used to pass him waiting at a bus stop.

I met with my client, apologizing for my distraction. But what about his clients? Who would
soothe their hurts, help them find their way to themselves? I remembered his wife from a lecture he’d given. She’d stood next to him, holding a tape recorder, taking such obvious pride in him. How would she cope, left with nothing but the cassettes? He’d spoken about helping children to adjust to aliyah. His voice conveyed such love for his own children, such an intensity of caring and effort. There are seven of them.

Eleven o’clock on a Thursday night in Beitar, a city benefiting as much as anyone else from this
man’s heart. A crowd of people packed into a synagogue plaza swaying together in silent,
stunned grief to the melody of eulogy after eulogy. His big heart. His dedication to Israel. To his city. To his Jewish study. To his clients. To his family.

Again and again it was remarked how unusual it was for a man so active in his community to be so involved with his family. He had the perfect balance, someone said. Who can replace the hours of singing with his children on Shabbat?

And then came that voice. A high, childish voice, trembling with an emotion to big to express,
but containing it none the less. It was time to recite the kaddish. Yisgadal V’yiskadash Shmei
Rabbah. May G-d’s great name be sanctified. Who could stand still in the face of that voice? Who could continue wrapping themselves in blankets of denial listening to a son deliver his final elegy to a father still so desperately needed?

The voice was soft, but its volume was booming. We’re changed forever, it cried. Don’t forget us. Don’t slip back into your cocoon. Life must go on, but your awareness of the events going
on around you can’t be turned off. People are suffering. We are suffering. Hear our pain,
integrate it into your lives, remember this man, our father, remember what he stood for. Let his life and ideals echo in your own. Remember the article our father wrote after another family was devastated by another bombing. He called then for us to remain connected. Do no less for him.

As I do every week, I went to the Kotel Friday morning for the sunrise Shacharit. There was a
large minyan from a yeshiva praying together, after staying up all night studying Torah in the
merit of those killed and maimed. Their tefillah was infused with the painful awareness of how
fragile life is, how important investing meaning in each moment is.

And as they began the Amidah, just as the sun broke over the horizon, a hush fell over the Kotel plaza, stones illuminated by the ascending rays. The only sounds were the small, still voices of the birds as they too recognized their Creator. It seemed for a moment that all the world was focused on the pain of the day before, the loss torn out of our hearts.

The important thing, the birds seemed to be saying, is to hold onto this emotion. To not let it
recede into the background of our lives, but remain connected to it. So that we are transformed by the loss, shattered into something broken but more real. May Hashem comfort the Goldberg family and all those broken by the events of last week.

Motti Salzberg, MSW
Director, Jewish Family Services
Beit Shemesh, Israel

Felled By His Loss

Is very quiet now. Yesterday his impact screamed into our lives, and today all we hear is the sound of tears, choking tears, sobbing tears, rage filled tears. We remember Chezi’s voice, and we cry all over again to think of it stilled during the course of his last normal day in an abnormal country.

His warm and wise contributions to our daily lives are palpable, and it is a wonderful tribute to
Chezi that so many people feel compelled to speak of the shock and loss. We got used to having his voice in our ear … our blessing, his mission.

And we, the therapists of Israel, are felled by this loss. For the moment, anyway. One of our own has been taken and we can’t find consolation. We are always there to help others find a thread to sanity, baruch Hashem, and now our own is misplaced as we feel the anguish of vulnerability and the permanence of the gaping hole blown into all of our lives.

We pray for Chezi’s holy neshama, and we imagine that it will go well for him in the Heavenly
court. We think of the blessings he amassed, and the lives he saved, and we don’t worry that
Hashem forgets any of that.

We know such an honored “job” does not get assigned to just anyone. We know only a special neshama with a special path is given this journey. But we remain small – no, tiny – in our understanding of the ways of HaKadosh Baruch Hu. In our smallness we can only wail and rage at those who could stop the ongoing murders – and we must face that we have met the enemy and it is us, because those with military and political power to prevent “terror incidents” here in Israel are Jews, even if they have forgotten their history and their mandate.

And the rest of us? How easy to say that we, as Jews, want peace. How easy to glaze over
headlines day after day, because they all tell the same repetitive, insane, self-destructive story. How important on this day to read and reread the story of Chezi so that no glazing is possible, and so that avenging his blood makes it onto the agenda.

And in our daily lives we must pretend Chezi is still here long enough to glean advice he might
have given under such agonizing circumstances. We must be very brave and we must feel the pain, and also feel our power to change things through our prayers, our beliefs, our votes, our tikkun olam, and through our compassion to each other. And then we must feel our total lack of power, and know that Hashem is there to understand and create all.

Chezi, your light is not extinguished. Rather it is enlivened, and your audience is far wider than
it was even yesterday. Hear us as we pray for your neshama, and know that we dedicate our efforts now, in the deepest special way to you.

May your soul find rest and reward, and may Hashem have mercy on us and send Moshiach to light up our dark days and nights.

Sarah Alpert, MA
Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel