I didn’t want to begin writing this eulogy. Because it would mean that David is really gone. Even now, I keep walking through my house and the Rosenfeld’s house, driving through the neighborhoods, scrolling through Facebook and emails and the many and varied photos of that generally scruffy face (David had what I called a 10 am shadow) and everything appears to be normal. A David normal. A crazy, urgent, intense race to get it all done normal, that is. But for those peculiar, seemingly misplaced announcements about David’s accident and passing, all indications otherwise would suggest anything but that David’s soul has left us. It can’t be, folks say. Impossible to understand, to comprehend. How is it that David Rosenfeld, the one who could always save the day, even if and often into the wee hours of the morning, is gone? Forever? Achen, yesh Adonai bamakom hazeh, v’Anochi lo yadati. Upon waking up from his vision of God and a ladder set upon the earth reaching into the sky, filled with angels running up and then back down the ladder, up and then back down, Jacob declares, “Behold, God was in this place and I, i did not know it.” But David did. David Eric Rosenfeld, David ben Tzvi, husband, father, son, friend, inventor and creator, cheerleader, mentor and inspirer of the highest order, knew and understood that life was so precious that only angst and stress and an unwavering commitment to perfection were the appropriately intense reactions required in the face of the miracle of our lives – for the probability that each of us would even be born the person we are, is 10 to the 2,685,000th power. Each one of us, a miracle for just being born, and David understood this and responded instinctively. Perhaps that could serve as a tiny bit of redemption in the face of our overwhelming brokenness today – that David lived more, did more, loved more and created more in his far too short, 47-year span of life than most could in 100.
Yet, anyone who knew him well knows that while that blazing, prophetic spirit burned from within, he was also a shepherd. David understood and lived in such a way that his flocks, of which he had many, were well cared for. With staff in hand, David, like his Kingly namesake, was loyal and devoted and caring like few people I have ever known. Anyone who had the privilege of finding himself under David’s watchful gaze knows what it means to be protected. Now I’m not at all suggesting that to be protected by David necessarily meant giggles and sunshine all of the time. To be protected by David was also to be demanded of as well. David was not in this life for the perks. He was here because there was business to take care of. Intense and so committed, David Rosenfeld dedicated himself to the truth and the search for the truth. Natalie, Abraham, Samuel and I are truly humble recipients of this effort for truth. He couldn’t and wouldn’t stand idly by as his brother bled. Tzedek, tzedek, tirdof – Justice, justice, he pursued! With the spirit of an ancient prophet, he pursued what he believed was the right and the good. And you had better rise to the occasion, because this life required work and commitment. If you were on his team, there was work to be done. And you better show up!
Nonetheless, there were a few individuals, who were the primary beneficiaries of every last effort David expended and which they deserved just by being who they are – his wife and children. Wendy, Philip, Bennett and Sage, our hearts have been breaking since Saturday morning, but not more than yours. David – Daddy – was your super hero. His work sustained your livelihood; his dedication to you sustained your souls; his artwork was the first and most important gift you awaited when you awoke on your birthday.
Wendy, yours and David’s love for each other has its origins in a crazy summer way back in 1994 at the Reform movement’s summer camp, Camp Swig. As we have re-told so many times, that fateful summer not only brought together you, David, Natalie, Jon and me as the Senior staff. And it wasn’t only your cousin Darryl’s and Anna’s summer of love. But most importantly, the summer of 94 brought you to David, your cabin mate and your soul mate, just as Jon had foreseen. See, while we all go back a couple decades, Wendy and Jon go back even farther. So it wasn’t completely unexpected that Jon would think to reach out to Wendy, to coax her into taking a job at Camp Swig. Jon knew, he really knew, that this was going to be a twofer. Jon, Camp administrator, would get a stellar food service director in Wendy. And Wendy would meet her beshert. David was frankly not too thrilled about working at camp and Wendy wasn’t either. Knowing neither David nor Wendy had yet found their groove at Swig, Natalie asked David if he could do nothing else, could he at least try to make the new, cute kitchen manager happy here at camp. David had already met Wendy. David assured Natalie that that he could do. And thus began his 21-year effort to bring Wendy joy and happiness. And she, him in return. Ever since, Wendy and David’s home has been with each other.
Their love brought into this world Philip, Bennett and Sage– a his, a theirs and a hers. Philip, we remarked yesterday, how in so many subtle and far less subtle ways, you are the embodiment of your father. Your quick wit, as well as your daily propensity for stressing function vs. form, continue to impress and surprise, and just like your father, challenge your teachers and future bosses. Sage, you are and will always be your Daddy’s little girl. There is nothing your Daddy wouldn’t do for you and did regularly. He only wanted you to be happy and comfortable. And Bennett, the love you shared with your Daddy, of technology and equipment and parts and most importantly, the potential that lays in every new piece of hardware – bought, found or given – is a testament to your Daddy’s spirit of invention and imagination that runs through you.
Like myself, before David hailed from Houston, David was a valley boy. Not the Texas Valley but the San Fernando Valley as he attended Cal State Northridge for college. Growing up in Ventura by the beach, a little farther north, many of you may not be aware that David was a bit of a surfer, long before the Internet. Not a lot of Jewish surfers; I always loved this about him. In Ventura, David grew up with his father, Harry, his mother Adele (may her memory be a blessing) and his brothers, Jeff and Michael. It was so beautiful to hear Jill, Chloe and Tatum regale stories of the three brothers when they were together as adults.And to see Jen stepping to offer such comfort as soon as she arrived yesterday was so touching. Competitions for strength of mind, wit and perhaps a bit of muscle, were their m.o. These are the memories that will always make them smile. Chloe and Tatum, you commented how interested your Uncle David was in you and in the details of your lives. There are so many in this room, I am sure, who recognize and remember this about David.
For Mother in law, Sandy, aka Momer, Aunt Joan, and siblings and cousins in law, Melissa, Josh, Simon, Rachel and Alexa, not to mention Carolyn and David Axelrad and the entire Axelrad clan, David was this larger than life wonderful addition to their mishpucha. Just last week, commemorating the passing of another far too young member of our community, Sandy shared with me that when introducing David to someone, she called him her “son-in-love.” He was everybody’s hero – as he fixed problems, engaged at times in shuttle diplomacy and brought the art of artful living to them all. Their Houston would and will never be the same after he arrived. He was indeed their new son, brother and nephew and uncle. Melissa, your acknowledgment of Dvid as Super Dad was both heart warming and heart breaking.
For David, the most important parts of life were always to be found in the details. His unique ability to dive headfirst into one project, and mine more heart, soul and meaning than one could ever have imagined was possible is the beauty we all loved about him. He saw the potential that others couldn’t see or what others grew tired of looking for before that potential could come to fruition. Many of you are familiar with the crucial role David played in the creation of Shma Koleinu. His vision, his imagery, his unique ability to give shape and form to what was but a dream for so many of us will stay with us always. About CSK’s logo, which he created, he wrote the following when he first posted it on line:
CSK’s logo: It’s made up of six translucent, brightly colored Stars of David that overlay each other. It represents a multifaceted dynamic of the people who make up our CSK community. Looking closely, you can see 3D cubes in the middle or maybe you’ll see a star. Sort of like us, depending on how you look, you might see something different. In the end, it’s all colorful, beautiful and dynamic.
And this was his non-paying job. The job that paid the bills for the last 11 years was as Vice President of UnLeaded Communications. Anyone who had the fortune of meeting David at work saw that David was the cornerstone that held it all together. Rarely could he make it back to his desk without being pulled in 1000 different directions by everyone who needed him. It was quite often that David would take a look at his next day and comment that he had at least three meetings scheduled at the same hour, sometimes several times a day. You, myself – anyone who worked with David knows that you either had to get out of the way or work as hard as you could to keep up. (And remember that his sometimes slash and burn personality was always offered with love.)
Perhaps David’s ability to so deftly manage the many and varied needs always before him, was due to what David Axelrad described as David’s “Soul Power.” The way he laughed, the way he touched you, the way he listened and was present – you could feel his soul power emitting from his skin. And that was what was so tragically sad about Saturday. When entering the ICU unit, where David’s body on life support, laid all Saturday until he passed, the absence of that soul power was overwhelming. There were lots of us there all day trying to offer comfort and support in an impossible situation. Its not everyone who can truly be present with someone in those hours like Wendy had to endure. However, two of them were thankfully present in remarkable ways. It was an awesome sight to see Cory and Rickie, Wendy’s cousins, express and provide strength, love and affection to Wendy and to David, the way they did. Wendy, while Rickie and Cory have set a high bar, we say to you now as your family and friends, you and your children are not alone. We are here. And we pledge as a community to provide you with all that you need. And though we will always be a poor substitute for David, I pray that we will be able to carry his legacy forward.
For the work to which David committed his life is now left to us. Yesterday, Wendy explained that David had no agenda in life other than to show compassion and to be driven and passionate in his pursuits and his loves. I would suggest that this was precisely David’s agenda. And now it is ours. Let’s get to work.