South Jerusalem lost another of its pillars this week. Aryeh Geiger, a religious educator for whom the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin signaled the need for a complete revision of religious education in Jerusalem, passed away this week after a four-year battle with cancer. I, and my daughter Misgav, were among the many hundreds who attended his funeral yesterday.
After the assassination, Geiger and a group of teachers and students founded Re’ut, a pluralistic religious school. The flexibility and freedom that Geiger sought were impossible within the strictures of Israel’s state-religious school system, so Geiger founded a religious school within the secular state system.
Shabbat is about to come in so I don’t have time to write at length about Aryeh, but I’ll paraphrase, from memory, the eulogy delivered by Geiger’s close associate, the chairman of the Knesset’s education committee. Rabbi Michael Melchior. Melchior compared Geiger to Isaac the patriarch. In last week’s Torah portion, Melchior recalled, we read about how Isaac continued to dig wells even as the Philistines kept filling them up. Even when the task seemed hopeless, Isaac continued to dig wells, until, finally, he dug one that flowed unimpeded.
Aryeh Geiger was a man who did not give up, and who was not deterred when others said that his vision was impossible. South Jerusalem, Israel, and the Jewish people will sorely miss him.