| Remarks by Theodore K. Rabb, Professor
of History, Princeton University Chair, American Academic Committee for
the Rothberg School
Deliivered to the British Friends of the Hebrew University at their
commemorative meeting on
Since I am visiting London from America, and have been unable to attend
the memorials arranged by the American Friends, I am glad to have the
chance to join the British Friends of the Hebrew University to honor
the memory of those who were killed last week.
These days will always be, for me, a time of Kaddish, our memorial prayer
for the dead. Just last week my wife and I were with a group on the
island of Rhodes who spontaneously gathered a minyan for a service,
in the sixteenth-century synagogue, to say Kaddish for a community of
1,600 that was murdered by the Nazis. And then, just two days later,
came the report of a new murder, yet another assault on our people.
As chair of the American Academic Committee for the Rothberg School,
I pay a special tribute first to the students who died, and whose enthusiasm
for study in Jerusalem we were so happy to support. I honor, too, the
dead and wounded from that cafeteria, now eternally linked to the many
other innocent Israelis who have been slaughtered in recent months.
That their sufferings come home to me particularly vividly is not just
because of their association with a university I myself attended, and
which my family has served for decades, but because of my close association
with one of the victims, the subject of my second tribute, Janis Coulter,
who did so much to ease those students' paths. I worked with her in
New York for a number of years, and know all too well how grievously
she will be missed.
Janis was someone who lit up a room. Never half-hearted, but always
bubbling with enthusiasm -- above all in her commitment to our university
-- she brought an energy and a sparkle to everything she did. Though
she was tireless and utterly devoted, her discipline and purpose were
always softened by an incisive yet gentle wit. Janis brought together
that rare combination: keen intelligence and a warm heart. One of the
students whom she took to Israel last week told us how she had helped
him through the recent loss of his mother; others outdid each other
in recalling her many kindnesses; and all who knew her will know what
it is to mourn.
Which brings me back to the Kaddish. One of the most astonishing things
about Janis was that she was a convert to Judaism. She knew what it
could mean when she said that a year as a student at the Rothberg School
would change one's life. She returned to America and gave her talents,
and ultimately her life, to the university she loved. But, for all her
family's pride in her achievements and her sacrifice, they could hold
no Shiva, and none could say Kaddish for her. The one memorial to this
remarkable woman that I think she would have accepted -- other than
a scholarship in her name that we are hoping to create -- is, I believe,
the Kaddish, and I have been reciting it in her memory in recent days.
I invite you all to do the same, notably at the Yizkor Services we will
be reciting next month. And may that help us come to terms with this
dreadful tragedy, which has taken from us an embodiment of that classic
Jewish ideal, an Eshet Chayil, A Woman of Valor.
Theodore K. Rabb
Professor of History, Princeton University
Chair, American Academic Committee for the Rothberg School