Humble Heroes: An Interview
Describe your relationship with your Jewish hero, including how you met and how you relate to him now.
After moving to the U.S. from England, Rabbi Woolfís first congregation was in Superior, Wisconsin, where my motherís family lived. He instantly became a member of my motherís family, and later of my fatherís. He conducted my parentsí wedding and he has acted like an uncle to my older brother and me. But really, I see Rabbi Woolf as so much more than just a family member.
Why is this person a hero to you?
As Iíve grown up, Rabbi Woolf has taken on many leadership roles within the Jewish community. Heís Rabbi Woolf, the congregational rabbi, the teacher, a member of the Hodroff-Epstein Funeral Homes Chapel staff and a counselor who helps Jews within an addiction rehabilitation program, which he started. I have always thought that he was such a good person -- so generous and always wanting to help -- and I related to those feelings. I canít count how many times Iíve changed my answer to the famous question, "What do you want to be when you grown up?" but every answer has had something to do with wanting to help people.
Rabbi Woolf is my hero in that heís such an influential role model in my life. Working in the Jewish community is not the most financially rewarding career, but I find it emotionally rewarding and itís where I feel my work experience and schooling has led me. Itís hard not to feel discouraged working for a degree in the arts when youíre surrounded by financially driven pre-med and business students, but hearing about what Rabbi Woolfís latest projects are give me a push to reach my goals.
What makes this person more heroic than other people in your life?
Rabbi Woolf is different because he represents so much more to me than just a rewarding future working in the Jewish community. Rabbi Woolf represents to me why I love the Jewish community so much. Itís because of people like him that the Jewish community stays so close together with that indescribable bond that so many Jewish communities share. We are all one family, and Rabbi Woolf makes sure that no one in that family slips through the cracks. Heís an inspiration.
What does this hero do for you, and other people, that makes them, shall we say, worthy of placement in history books?
I think itís fair to say heís Minnesotaís Mother Teresa! His work often goes unnoticed, but he affects so many lives in so many different ways.
What are a few memories about your hero that stick out in your mind?
When I think of memories of Rabbi Woolf I immediately picture him smiling and laughing. I think of warm family stories, Sunday mornings at Talmud Torah during my middle school years and his presence in the community.
What are some of your heroís characteristics that make him/her a mentsch?
I think Rabbi Woolf deserves the title of a mentsch because of the work that he does and because the way he treats the Jewish community is so honorable.
What is this personís best quality, in your opinion?
Rabbi Woolfís best quality is his ability to see the good in every person. He treats every Jew with the respect of a family member, because the Jewish community is one big family.
I asked Rabbi Woolf what advice he would give someone like me, someone who wants a professional job within the Jewish community. He said that this kind of person has to be extremely dedicated, has to be a person that loves to help people, but understands that sometimes you will feel rejected and sometimes youíll feel like youíve achieved great things. But the most important advice Rabbi Woolf gave was: You have to have a good heart. The profession is not always appreciated, but it is the most honorable profession you can have.
A Minnesota native, Caryn London is a junior at University of Miami, where she enjoys spending her winters on the beach. She is double majoring in Judaic Studies and Sociology. This is Carynís third year working for the Greater Miami Hillel. She also enjoys Hurricane football games and running.