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After The Shloshim: Who Was Dr. Ivan Mauer?


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Ivan lost his young wife, Gail (who was even more zealous than he on Israel). They raised sweet, intelligent and respectful children: Greg, Brian, Wendy, Tzvi, Debra, and Michal. Some time after her death he was fortunate enough to marry Naomi – a lady who herself cannot be described in single words – whose legendary and hidden chesed and whose devotion to Ivan and to all their children is simply indescribable.

Naomi and her sister Hindy – themselves devoted children to distinguished and learned parents, Rabbi Sholom and Irene Klass – and Jerry Greenwald, Ivan’s close friend and brother-in-law, were all touched by the chord of Ivan’s sincere gutzkeit.

I cannot conclude without highlighting Ivan’s zeal. His love and his loyalty, his devotion and his boundless passion, coupled with his cerebral background, made him who he was. This meant the right wing in Israel was right but not right enough; the shul he loved was incomparable but needed to grow even greater. I recall the virtual hysteria he exhibited when I did not agree with him. He must have spent days contriving to change my position. He drove me to drink after one board meeting! I can picture his wry smile when he felt victorious. He took a deep pleasure in tangling with his rabbi, whom he always hugged – hugged and bugged.

Kohelet, Ecclesiastes, is a complex, profound megillah written by King Solomon, son of King David. He was considered the wisest of all men. But one of his observations borders on the bizarre: “Tovim ha’shnayim min ha’echad“- “Two are better than one,” which is the stuff of rabbis’ homilies to the bride and groom under the chuppah – two are better than one. But do we really need the smartest of men to tell us that?

Rav Kook, the first chief rabbi of modern Israel, illuminates the verse by noting that two are better than one (as in marriage) when living according to the values transmitted “from the One Holy God” (who gave the Torah at Sinai).

As I conclude this tribute to Dr. Mauer, I must apply King Solomon’s hidden dictum not only in terms of the marriage of two people blending their own divergent qualities but with regard to several profound qualities honestly blended in one person.

So now I ask you: what is the one word, the one truth? Unique? Diagnostician? Compassionate? Self-sacrificial? Stubborn? Empathetic? Loyal? Gutzkeit? Understanding?

Ivan Mauer was so many-sided, so inter-connected, so multi-faceted, so astute, so filled with chesed, so seriously religious, so earnestly honest – and so lovingly disagreeable. Which would you choose?

Perhaps he qualified as all of the above.

Rabbi Maurice Lamm was formerly the rabbi of Beth Jacob Congregation of Beverly Hills, California. He currently is a professor at Yeshiva University, holding the chair of Professional Rabbinics. The author of seven books, he is also president and founder of the National Institute of Jewish Hospice.

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I have always fashioned myself a wordsmith. No longer.

Dr. Ivan Mauer was Naomi Mauer’s husband and Mrs. Irene Klass’s son-in-law, and both Irene and Dr. Ivan died virtually simultaneously. And I must confess: Ivan was not only my good friend and our family doctor, but also a congregant who respected me and loved me – and consistently squabbled with me.

Yet I could not find a single word in the entire thesaurus that would suit him.

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