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FJC Remembers Rabbi Dennis Katz

Last evening I learned that Rabbi Dennis Katz passed away yesterday in Chicago. While most of you did not even know his name, he was one of the best friends the FJC will ever have.

Dennis was the Rabbi of the Conservative Synagogue Temple Shaare Tikvah B’Nai Zion. A holder of Orthodox smicha, Dennis had a long and significant career in the health care industry. Upon retirement, in 2000 he returned to the Rabbinate and has led STBZ for the past ten years, including managing a recent move of the synagogue to a new and more vibrant location.

We in camping met Dennis in his role as an advisor to the One Happy Camper Program. He counseled us in many aspects as well as lovingly overseeing the program in Chicago.

It was my pleasure to get to know Dennis during my many visits to Chicago, as well as a trip to Israel. He was a gentle soul of uncommon integrity and kindness. It was only after you got to know him that you realized the intense passion he brought to his congregation, the campership program and the future of the Jewish people. We are all diminished by his passing.

As chair of the Foundation over the past five years I have had the honor to meet a number of people who share our dedication and commitment to camping. Few of them had the impact on me that Dennis did each time we were together. His wise counsel never failed to help me to do the right thing for our campers. I shall miss him as a friend, mentor and amazing supporter.

Hamakom yinachem etchem b’toch sh’ar avalei Tziyon v’Yerushalayim. May God’s presence comfort the family among the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

- Skip Vichness, Chair, Board of Directors, Foundation for Jewish Camp

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Comments (1)

  1. R. Dennis Katz of Blessed Memory … & Mazel.

    ..yes you said it so well, about my friend, Rabbi Dennis, this is so true:
    “He was a gentle soul of uncommon integrity and kindness. It was only after you got to know him that you realized the intense passion he brought to his congregation, the campership program and the future of the Jewish people. We are all diminished by his passing.”

    Dennis surprises me about a lot of things, even now, especially now. I’m learning many new things about my friend of thirty-five years. Some, even from the Internet, such as his backing a protection of animals from being overfed to the point of bursting their livers for a “delicacy.” Just one small example of who he was/
    is.
    – - –

    Dennis, Lenny and I often had a reoccurring discussion
    & good-natured disagreement about how to pronounce,
    “Mazel Tov.” Was it Mazel Toove or was it Mazel TOEve?

    We all (sort of) agreed to use both pronunciations…
    and often did ~ Howard, Roberto and probably
    many others too..

    .. it is fitting this article just showed up from Chabad a few hours before Dennis passing.. I share it as I recall, Dennis didn’t much like others to say, “I’m sorry,”
    to him about his medical situation. I’m not sure why, but each of those who know
    and knew Dennis would have their individual thoughts and ideas about it.

    Chabad.org
    What Does ‘Mazel Tov’ Mean?

    I always thought Mazel Tov meant “congratulations.” I recently heard that it actually means “good luck.” But I thought Jews don’t believe in luck…?

    8 hours ago · 8
    (a few hours before his passing February 7th
    Monday at approximately 1:45 a.m.)

    What Does ‘Mazel Tov’ Mean?
    By Aron Moss

    Question:
    I always thought Mazel Tov meant “congratulations.” I recently heard that it actually means “good luck.” But I thought Jews don’t believe in luck…?

    Answer:
    Your confusion is understandable. The Talmud–the ancient encyclopedia of Jewish wisdom–seems to contradict itself on the issue. In one place it states, “On your birthday, your mazel is strong.” Elsewhere the Talmud reports, “The Jewish people are not subject to mazel”!

    The word mazel literally means “a drip from above.” Mazel can have different connotations depending on its context, but they are all connected to this basic definition–something trickling down from above.

    The signs of the zodiac are called mazalot. Jewish tradition sees the constellations on high as directing the destiny of individuals and nations down below. Thus mazel is the influence dripping down from the stars. (Over the years, bad or good mazel came to mean luck more than destiny.) When the Talmud says that we are not subject to mazel, it means that we are not limited to our destiny; rather our own actions determine our fate.

    There is another meaning of the word mazel that is more relevant to the phrase Mazel Tov. Mazel is the term used in Jewish mysticism to describe the root of the soul. The mystics say that only a ray of our soul actually inhabits our body. The main part of the soul, our mazel, remains above, shining down on us from a distance.

    Have you ever experienced a sense of spontaneous intuition, where out of the blue you suddenly feel at peace with yourself and the universe? Or a sudden flash of inspiration that makes you see life in a new light? Occasionally we may receive an extra flux of energy from our soul above. It can happen at any time, but is most common at a time of celebration-–a birth, birthday, bris, bar/bat mitzvah or wedding. It is especially at these times of joy that we are able to see beyond the mundane and the petty and sense the deeper truths of life.

    When we tell someone Mazel Tov, we are giving them a blessing: May this drip of inspiration from your soul above not dissipate, but rather have a positive and lasting effect, that from this event onwards you should live your life with higher consciousness. You should be aware of the blessings in your life and be ready to receive more and more.

    In other words: Good Mazel!
    ——————————————————————————–

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