Today I lost A Childhood Friend To Covid
I lost a childhood friend to Covid.
The Jewish world lost a lifetime educator.
The world lost a very special soul.
I was fourteen years old, a sophomore at Yeshiva University’s Manhattan Talmudical Academy, when on the first day of school I found myself in the back of Mr. Grossberg’s math class next to a teenage boy from Laurelton, Queens. Sitting in the back of that class the two of us got to know each other and what would become a lifelong friendship began to flourish. Jewish music was becoming very popular at that time. Groups like the Rabbis Sons were bringing a new modern sound to biblical verses. The two of us decided that we would join the scene and formed a band. Avi played the keyboard, Asher the guitar, Ira the drums and I sang. For months we practiced on our days off from school. Later that year we played on a float in the Salute to Israel Day parade and in the MTA gym on Israel Independance Day. Eventually we even got a Bar Mitzvah gig. The other band members were all far more talented than I, and a year or so later I left the band. But Avi and I remained friends. For several years we also spent summers together at Camp Massad Bet. When we were counselors, we took our days off together. Once we decided to try and hitchhike all the way from Dingman’s Ferry, Pa to Monticello, NY. It was a crazy thing to do even then. Amazingly, we made it there and back safe and sound and for years we would reminisce about our experiences that day and the final hitch in the backseat of a Gremlin.
After high school I continued on at Yeshiva University while Avi attended The Jewish Theological Seminary/ Columbia University joint program. We lost contact for a few years as we each went our separate ways until we were reunited as young marrieds when we both happened to move to Silver Spring; I to attend law school and Avi to work at the Board of Jewish Education. Instantly, our friendship renewed. And while in the years to come we each followed down somewhat different paths we remained true friends for over fifty years.
But of course, how could it have been any other way? Avi was everyone’s genuine friend. His heart was larger than life. His smile filled way more than every room in which he was present. Professionally, he was non-judgmental, always respectful, a bridge builder across the diverse spectrum of the Jewish Community never allowing his personal beliefs or opinions to influence his approach to others or to dismiss another’s views. While consensus is often difficult to achieve in the Jewish world, there was always consensus about Avi. Everyone, literally everyone, who crossed paths with Avi respected him and admired him.
Avi West was a very special person. A dedicated husband, father, and Saba. He enriched the lives of his students, his colleagues, his community, and his friends. He enriched my life for over fifty years. I will miss him dearly.
Today I lost a cherished childhood friend.
May his memory be a blessing.