“Family means putting your arms around each other and being there.”

Barbara Bush

Westchester County, New York. A Jersey-bred Maryland resident stood on the bima not only in prayer, but in a role he was born for.

My brother-in-law is a soft-spoken man. A gent he is, and one whose actions have spoken volumes through years, from state to state and generation to generation. How fitting it is that time and circumstance have made him patriarch of the family founded on Ben and Lil.

Cleveland Heights, Ohio. I was sitting at Berkowitz listening as a life-long buddy eulogized his dad. “He was always there,” the old quarterback noted. “That’s what I’ll remember.” How true it was, thought I. Indeed, some fathers were always there; some just weren’t. Closing my eyes, still I saw the Mr. Mandels and the Mr. Caprettas and Mr. Filipowicz’s…always…at the little league games…present…

Being there. Always there. A part of.

Joel Selzer is always there. Present. A mensch like his father.

Let me take a step back. I’ve got —you’ve must admit —the unique angle on this.  Through family or just periphery, over 4+ decades I’ve had eyes on his life. (Ed. Note: Talk about “unique angle”—I’ve participated in three of his siblings’ marital proceedings: one as a spouse, one as an usher, and one as defendant). Through it all, though, I’ve watched Joel grow and felt the dignity of his still water continue to run deep.

Back in Westchester, sitting around at the bris:

“You know,” I told him, “In this family you’re the ‘Designated Motzi’”.

They laughed, of course, but only at the truth.

Joel deserves it. Like his Uncle Ernie did…like his father did….

When the bell rings, you see, this man, this son of an All-American, is himself all over America—answering the ring. Be it a simcha up north or his family out west, he’s there.
Some people do the right thing when convenient; others do things right when they should. In a busy world where most find excuses, Joel (with life-mate Fran) finds the way.

I think of him now, what with talk turning to the upcoming Yom Tov. Stacy’s in Chicago; Michael— New York. Me? I’ll be in Ohio driving Aunt Helen somewhere, I’m sure. Oh, and Joel Harry? He’ll be down in Baltimore, no doubt—

Clan all around him, he’ll probably be chanting the Motzi.

Leave a Reply