- A TRIBUTE TO A DEAR FRIEND - 
Ira Michael Friedman z"l

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It all began with a phone call, eight years ago: “I am a neighbour of one of your congregants in Salt Spring Island and would like to join the Shabbat Services”.

From the moment I met Michael Friedman the following Shabbat morning, I felt that this was going to be a great friendship. Michael started to participate in Torah classes and became our regular guest for Shabbat dinners.

After years of not being a “Shul goer”, Michael started attending Services regularly. It did not take long before he started to read the Haftara often, although he had not done so for over fifty years!

In the summer of 2013, when we formed the Chabad Building Committee to start discussing the creation of a permanent home for Chabad, Michael was one of its first members. At that time, he was preoccupied with his full-time consulting firm and taking care of his elderly parents, but when asked, he immediately agreed.

Michael was not only very active in the meetings (and his meeting minutes are a beautiful record of this campaign), but would also meet with me often to share ideas and help with the fundraising efforts. Moreover, he was instrumental in finding the property of the Chabad Centre.

When Michael’s father passed away, he informed me that he would like to dedicate the future Ctots – Childhood Education Centre in his memory. Michael was so proud of the success of the Centre and was thankful for the opportunity to honour his father.

Michael was the first person to lead a Service in the new Shul and say Kaddish for his father, while the Centre was still under construction and we invited the community for a tour. 

He was very excited for the grand opening and invited his family from across the country to take part in the occasion. He rightly felt that this was his personal Simcha.

In the new Shul, Michael was first to arrive whenever there was a Minyan and he was in town. “I grew up going to Shul with my grandfather but I never thought that Shul will become such an important part of my life again” he once told me.

When a new Torah was dedicated to the Shul, he requested to donate the crown in memory of his mother. The glow on his face during the Torah dedication event, surrounded by his loving sisters and family, was an inspiring sight.

Shortly after this joyous event, Michael was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. While the prognosis was not very hopeful, he decided to make every effort to overcome the disease and travelled to Germany for special medical treatment. I had the honour of spending time with him during these months and was amazed by his strong spirit.

The treatments were not very successful, however, since they took him to Europe it was a good opportunity for him to visit Israel twice, decades after he was last there. Michael was a vocal supporter of Israel, especially in making the case that Israel is not “occupying” any territories, but rather, inhabiting its ancestors’ land. Visiting Jerusalem gave him great strength at a time when he most needed it.

Michael was still away for his mother’s Yahrtzeit and was looking for a way to mark it. He was thrilled when I offered to organize a Minyan in Victoria and have him participate by video. This was the one happy hour he had while undergoing very difficult treatments.

When Michael realized that his health was deteriorating, he met with me to discuss his last wishes and asked that the inscription on his headstone would read: חסיד לובלין נולד, חסיד ליובאוויטש בסוף ימיו which translates to “Born a Chassid of Lublin, was Chassid of Lubavitch at the end of his days”…

One of the iconic features of the Chabad Centre is the Menorah of windows on the eastern wall of the Shul, that sheds its light on Victoria. This Menorah was dedicated by members of the Vancouver Island Jewish community in memory of the six million holy souls of the victims of the Holocaust.

When construction of the Chabad Centre was complete, I shared with Michael the vision of adding to the windows stained glass that would resemble the flames of a Menorah.  The idea was that the flames would stem off of the burning bush on the ark, representing the flame of the Jewish faith that will continue to burn for eternity. Michael was very taken by this idea.

I have the distinct honour today, on the 13th of Av, his first Yahrtzeit, to dedicate the stained-glass Menorah in the memory of my dear friend Ira Michael Friedman חיים יצחק מנחם בן יעקב קאפל ז"ל.

When dedicating this magnificent symbol of our faith, I am reminded of the last time that Michael read the Haftorah in the Shul, it was on Tisha B’av in the afternoon two years ago.

These are the words he read and they move me deeply every time I think of that moment:

כִּי־כֹ֣ה אָמַ֣ר יְהֹוָ֗ה לַסָּֽרִיסִים֙ אֲשֶׁ֚ר יִשְׁמְרוּ֙ אֶת־שַׁבְּתוֹתַ֔י וּבָֽחֲר֖וּ בַּֽאֲשֶׁ֣ר חָפָ֑צְתִּי וּמַֽחֲזִיקִ֖ים בִּבְרִיתִֽי: וְנָֽתַתִּ֨י לָהֶ֜ם בְּבֵיתִ֚י וּבְחֽוֹמֹתַי֙ יָ֣ד וָשֵׁ֔ם ט֖וֹב מִבָּנִ֣ים וּמִבָּנ֑וֹת שֵׁ֚ם עוֹלָם֙ אֶתֶּן־ל֔וֹ אֲשֶׁ֖ר לֹ֥א יִכָּרֵֽת:

“For so says the Lord to the childless who will keep My Sabbaths and will choose what I desire and hold fast to My covenant: I will give them in My house and in My walls a place and a name, better than sons and daughters; an everlasting name I will give him, which will never perish” ...

                  May his soul be bound up in the bond of eternal life.

 

 

 

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