Rabbi Grunberger leaves a lasting impact in St. Louis

From left: Then-Aish St. Louis Director Rabbi Elazar Grunberger, the late Aish HaTorah founder Rabbi Noach Weinberg, and Michael Grafman are shown during a conference in 1999. Rabbi Grunberger recently announced he will be leaving St. Louis after spending 26 years here and returning to Israel.

By Michael Grafman

From rock n’ roll to Torah scroll, I have been blessed many times over for living a younger life of rock music and an older life of learning about our heritage. Being raised on rock was great fun, as I have had a lot of good times meeting nationally renowned musicians. From playing pinball with Pete Townsend of The Who in his dressing room to getting kissed by Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane, it’s been an experience.

Then, in 1989, my “second life” began when I met Rabbi Elazar Grunberger at Aish HaTorah. That’s when I started to see the “big picture.” My life changed for the better thanks to the rabbi and his wife, Bracha Grunberger, who together gave me – and so many other St. Louis Jews – their friendship and a tremendous education about our faith. From them I learned a love of Torah as well as a love of our Jewish heritage.

The past 20 years have been so rewarding in my experiences as a Jew — reading and studying Torah, observing holy days and the overall feeling of being an observant Jew. I could thank many people but first and foremost, the Grunbergers come to my mind because they showed me what it meant to learn and love about being Jewish. They taught me that on Shabbos, the most holy day of the week and the most important holiday, I should stop what I was doing and celebrate with family and friends. They awakened my soul to pray for basic things that I took for granted – food, getting up in the morning, almost everything in our lives happens for a purpose, and that there is a blessing for everything in life.

They were instrumental in my seeing the beauty of Judaism and helping me develop a love of Torah. Whether it was taking me to New York for the Siyum Hashas in 1997, or to the first Aish HaTorah Parters’ Conference in Hudson Valley N.Y. in 1999, or to planning Aish’s Speed Dating event where I met my wife, Ariella, to marrying us (with Rabbi Greenwald) at the Aish Firehouse, Rabbi Grunberger has been the most influential person in my life. How will I ever thank him?

The Grunbergers are two of the most influential people in the St. Louis Jewish community. After 26 years here, their presence will not be easily replaced. And though I am thrilled for them in going back to our holy land, I can’t help but also feel very sad. I will miss them dearly, but I will do my best to honor their influence and continue to be the best Jew I can be, and to share the love of Torah.

It must be noted that the Grunbergers’ presence didn’t just impact the lives of everyday St. Louis Jews, but also many local institutions, including synagogues and the Jewish Federation. As a fitting tribute to the Grunbergers and all they have done in more than two and a half decades here, consider joining my wife and me, as well as hundreds of other Jews on July 14th for the Grunbergers’ tribute dinner. Don’t miss this opportunity to thank one of the most influential couples that the St. Louis’ Jewish community has ever had in terms of building our Jewish identity and community.

Call Sylvia Poe at 314-707-2652 for more information.