Remarks by Rita Bleier
on the occasion of
The Installation of Rabbi Micah Friedman
June 30, 2024

     I am pleased and honored to present this tribute to Rabbi Friedman.  Even though it has been just about a year since his arrival, it seems as though he has been with us for a much longer period of time. He has so seamlessly transitioned into our community, into our hearts and our souls.  I served on the Search Committee chaired under the capable hands of Randy Friedman and Mark Hubal. I recall receiving and reviewing several resumes and was struck by Rabbi Friedman’s cover letter – so warm, genuine and humble. It spoke directly to me.   The Search Committee chose a few candidates (Rabbi Friedman was among them) and then a small group of people from the committee interviewed the top candidates via zoom with the whole committee viewing the interviews.  I was not able to make the meeting where we discussed our thoughts regarding the candidates and I sent an email to Randy and Mark saying “I really liked Rabbi Friedman.  I thought he was very warm and genuine and although he is young, I think he can appeal to all age groups.  He seemed very engaging and provided some inspirational material.”  We opted to bring Rabbi Friedman to Binghamton for a Shabbat, he was of course fabulous and when feedback from the congregation was elicited I wrote, “make him an offer as soon as possible.”  And indeed Rabbi Friedman has not disappointed – what we saw was the real thing.  And I have to add, he jumped right in to participate in all aspects even preparing a meal for the congregation prior to the Tisha b’av service.  When I asked him if he needed any help he said he had it all arranged.  And he did.  

     Rabbi Friedman is engaging and inclusionary – his discussions are not just a lectures but an attempt to draw people in, to include everyone and to make people who offer their thoughts feel special.  He is filled with positivity and never fails to look on the bright side of things, inspires others to do so as well.  One thing I noticed early on is his ability to speak directly to the person and to remember his or her name, as well as an identifying positive characteristic – a very important skill that often takes many years and that many people never quite master.

     Rabbi Friedman has elevated the whole davening process, each service, be it Shabbat, Tuesday minyan or a holiday.  No longer is it just a combination of parts of the service – Birkhot Hashahar, Psukei d’zimrah, Shacharit, Torah Service, Musaf – it is much more.  When my younger son was born at Lourdes Hospital, a Catholic facility, my daughter was 5 years old and in Kindergarten at Hillel Academy.  At that time they kept you in the hospital for longer than the few hours that is current practice.  In any case, while I was there, my mother took my daughter on a walk in the lobby and they stopped in the chapel which was replete with crucifixes and statues.  My daughter looked around and said to my mother, “Grandma, we have to be quiet, Hashem lives here.”  She did not notice the crucifixes and statues that were adorning the chapel, did not know what they were but she did sense that the chapel was a special place to be honored and respected. And so Rabbi Friedman always elevates our services from the more routine to the holy, leading with such kavanah.  He makes our sanctuary a special place and the feeling of holiness is palpable.   Not only does our sanctuary feel holy but you know you are also in the presence of a special person.  I am a bat Kohan, there are not so many kohanim in the congregation so I am often called upon for the first aliyah.   It is one thing to hear Rabbi Friedman read Torah while I am sitting in my seat and quite another thing to hear him read while I am on the Bimah.  I sometimes have to pinch myself to ensure that I am not dreaming as I think to myself “he is so young.  How can he be so talented and learned? “  I must add that we are fortunate to have Rabbi Talia with us and on the occasions that she is able to lead services with Rabbi. Friedman, there is truly magic in the air.

     As we all know, rabbis are often called upon in difficult times – funerals, illnesses, unfortunate circumstances.   And in each of these cases, Rabbi Friedman handles himself with such class, exuding empathy and relating so effectively to all involved.  Recently he and I spent some time in the ICU with a congregant who was in a vegetative state, on life support, in critical condition.  The care he displayed both for the congregant as well as for the family who visited was outstanding.  I thought to myself if, G-d forbid, if I or a family member were in that situation, Rabbi Friedman is who I would want there with me.   

     So this wonderful weekend and this installation is about honoring Rabbi Friedman and expressing gratitude that we have him in our presence.  I believe he will make monumental strides and we at Temple Israel can say that we knew him when.  We also honor his parents who I am sure are shepping nachus and we thank them for raising this wonderful soul.  

     Rabbi Friedman, may you go from strength to strength, continue to lead our congregation and inspire people in all places.