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When I Was Growing Up


Speech given by Rina Neiman at Temple Valley Beth Shalom (VBS) in Encino, CA on December 21, 2003 on the occasion of acceptance of the Neiman Library by VBS.


When I was growing up, it seemed to me that my father only worked about three hours a day. You see, he was a university professor and was usually home by mid-day, and not only that, he got summers off to boot! To my young mind, this seemed like a great deal. As I got older though, I realized that my father really worked more like 10 or 12 hours a day. When he got home from his teaching duties, he would continue to learn, read and write for hours.


I read an article recently about the role of one’s work in life, which put into perspective my father’s drive to learn and teach. The article talked about people who have jobs, people who have professions, and people who have passions. Jobs are things that you do for the money, professions are jobs that you are skilled at, and passions are things that you would do whether you got paid for it or not.


My father has passion. His passions are learning and teaching. He studies constantly, reading books about times and places in history that I can’t even fathom. He loves to teach, and I’m sure all of his students here can attest to that. Once, I spent a drive up from Los Angeles to San Francisco while he lectured me, and my friend, on the history of the universe from creation to present day. It was a crash course in the history of the world in about six hours – well thought out and accessible, which are all hallmarks of his teaching style.


Another time, we were standing at the edge of the Judean desert in Israel when he pointed out into the vast desert and said “…this is where King David and his gang hung out.” See, simple and accessible.


A few years ago, my father decided to retire move to the Los Angeles area. I was living in San Francisco at the time, and my two sisters were in LA. He had recently retired from Boston College and wanted to be closer to us. He had also had it with the Boston winters. So he sold his house and moved to LA.


Now, many people in their late 70’s retire and let’s say, relax, play golf, whatever. My father, on the other hand, got his resume together and started “pounding the pavement” looking for teaching opportunities. He dove into writing his book on Jewish languages and waited eagerly for the local library branch to open. Every time I called him over the last several years he would tell me that his “dance card was full.”


The move to Los Angeles was the right move for him to make. He found an eager audience that has welcomed him with open arms and minds. There is also no snow to shovel, and the drivers are much better here.


My father is an inspiration to many people, but especially to me. I hope and pray that when I reach my late 70’s I am ready, willing and able to pick up and move to a new place if I want to and start a new chapter of my life as well.

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