*This article is dedicated to the memory of Rav Reuven Bauman Z”L who was brought to Kever Yisroel last Monday. Today on Sunday, the family ended the Shiva period of mourning. I felt it appropriate at the conclusion of Shiva to share with everyone my thoughts of Rav Reuven Bauman Z”l.
Reuven Bauman was a lanky and angular 13-year-old when he entered my classroom at the Yeshiva of North Jersey 22 years ago.
The fact that Reuven quickly gained a name as one of the most refined bochurim of the shiur did not surprise me; I’d known the Bauman family for a long time.
Reuven’s grandfather, Willie Bauman, was one of the steady participants in a Gemara shiur that I’d been giving in Englewood, New Jersey, since 1983. I was therefore not surprised by the exemplary middos Reuven displayed.
Wille Bauman was one of “the Dunera Boys”.
The HMT (Hired military transport) Dunera was a British passenger ship which gave her name to an infamous case of wartime maltreatment and injustice.
On 10 July 1940, 2,542 detainees, all classified as “enemy aliens,” were forcibly embarked aboard the Dunera at Liverpool. They included several dozen Nazi sympathizers, along with 2,036 anti-Nazis, most of them Jewish refugees.
These were Jewish men who were deemed “enemy aliens” by the British and were forcibly transported from England on the ship “Dunera” by the British to far-off Australia.
They arrived in Sydney, Australia on 6 September 1940.
After leaving the Dunera the pale and emaciated refugees were transported through the night by train 750 kilometers (470 mi) west of Sydney to the rural town of Hay in central New South Wales.
Many of the young Jewish men were Frum Yidden, among them was Rav Reuvain’s grandfather, Wille Bauman. The orthodox were called “koshers”.
Eventually, the men were re-located to Tatura, Victoria, approximately 200 km from Melbourne, but much closer to Shepparton.
R’ Moishe Zalman Feiglin the great-grandfather of the present Israeli politician and former Knesset member Moshe Feiglin was very involved with these internees, supplying them with matzos, wine and kosher food.
After the war, Wille Bauman came to the States and settled in Washington Heights and eventually moving to Englewood, NJ.
Mr. Bauman’s sterling middos, his devotion to learning, his admiration for Rav Shimon Schwab Zt”L and his complete and utter devotion to Torah and mitzvos were transmitted by example to his son Rabbi Mark Bauman, Reuven’s father.
My connection to the Bauman family continued with the next generation, Rabbi Mark Bauman.
When Reuven was in preschool, Rabbi Bauman and I worked as rebbeim at the Yeshiva of North Jersey. As a veteran Rebbi, Rabbi Bauman quickly took me under his wing and we spent hours together sharing our dreams for our talmidim and the nachas we enjoyed from our growing families
A few years later, on a bright September morning, Reuven Bauman entered my classroom.
It was a natural progression in my relationship with the family which began two generations earlier. Although middos are not always passed on through yerushah, and indeed in Reuven’s case they were certainly earned, nevertheless, the solid family foundation was already in place.
Reuven loved learning.
Yet more than learning, he displayed a certain type of reverence — or to be more precise, a veneration and deference to Torah and his rebbeim — rarely seen nowadays.
He learned with excitement and with enthusiasm, and he was motivated to understand and absorb every word of Torah.
In retrospect, perhaps this was Hashem’s way of guaranteeing that in the short life granted to him, he would succeed in learning and teaching Torah way beyond what most people his age could ever dream of accomplishing.
The penchant to give over of one’s self to others was a Bauman trait fully embraced by Rav Reuven.
Like his grandfather and father before him, he possessed the Bauman quality of humility combined with a sense of regality that manifested itself not in haughtiness, but rather in a total devotion to his life’s mission of helping others.
The Gemara teaches us, “From my students I have learned the most Torah.” I can say the same about Reb Reuven, but in his case, the lesson came after he was in my shiur.
Over the years I occasionally meet up with former talmidim. Most say hello and inquire about their eighth-grade rebbi.
Rav Reuven was different.
He didn’t just happen to meet up with me, he sought me out.
Anytime he saw me, he ran over and asked how I was doing.
Only after inquiring about me would he then share his progress in learning, his growing family, and finally, his joy and pride of joining the ranks of those who are privileged to transmit our mesorah to the next generation.
Just a few short months ago, he visited Passaic. He waited quietly and patiently to greet me after davening. “How is Rebbi doing?” he asked.
I had heard he was spreading Torah in Norfolk, so in response I said, “How is the rebbi in Norfolk doing?”
He smiled and said, with his usual simplicity, “Baruch Hashem, I am doing well. What could be bad? I’m teaching Torah in a wonderful out-of-town community. I have a supportive wife and family and, Baruch Hashem, I still have time to learn.”
He then said, “Rebbi, I have to thank you. It was you who started me on my path in learning.”
Rav Reuven was an accomplished and beloved Rebbi. He had achieved all of this through his own hard work, diligence, and middos tovos. Nevertheless, it was he who thanked me.
Reuven excelled in the middah of doing chesed for others.
He minimized himself for the sake of making his former eighth-grade Rebbi feel good.
This was the Bauman legacy I’d personally witnessed — first in his grandfather Wille z”l, then in his esteemed father and mother Rabbi Mark and Esther Bauman, and now I was witnessing it firsthand in Reb Reuven.
Last week, when I heard about the crisis in Norfolk, and that one of the rebbeim immediately and without hesitation — emulating Nachshon ben Aminadav — jumped into the sea to save a talmid, a shiver of fear and trepidation went through me.
I knew Reuven was a Rebbi in Norfolk and I knew Reuven.
If there were one person who would give his life for a talmid, it could only have been Reuven.
Now, with the grim closure of the crisis a reality, I miss him.
I miss his smile and his chein. I miss his capacity for empathy, which was way beyond that typical of a person his age.
I accept that Hashem gave us a gift for 35 years and now asked for His precious and cherished gift back. I accept with total and unwavering belief Hashem’s judgment.
Nevertheless, losing him leaves a void in the life of his wife and his children.
It leaves a void in the lives of his parents and his grandmother, and in the lives of his talmidim and the hundreds of others whose lives he touched.
For me personally, I miss the budding young talmid chacham who maintained the humility to remember to say a kind word to his eighth-grade Rebbi from 23 years earlier, to make my normally frenetic day a little more cheerful and bring a smile to my face.
When I arrived at the Shiva home on Friday, the first words out of the mouth of Rabbi Mark Bauman were, “You gave us such a Nechama with your article in Mishpacha”.
As usual, he thought of me before he thought of himself.
This was the Bauman legacy which Reuven possessed.
He remembered his old Rebbi, he remembered his current talmidim; he will be remembered by countless people whose lives he touched.
Reuven, you are the talmid who became my Rebbi. We loved you and we miss you, and we’ll remain forever indebted to you.