I was just one of thousands upon thousands. But I’m sure that everyone of us who were favored by having experienced Rabbi Herman Schaalman knew almost immediately that we were in the presence of an extraordinary being.
And extraordinary in so many ways.
Without a note, he spoke and we recognized wisdom.
Without an introduction, he reached out to us and we recognized a friend.
Without sharing his distinct and rich history and community and faith, we recognized someone who shared a common humanity, a shared sense of community of all creation, a bond of deep belief in what is good and what constitutes the common good.
There was never a question about his Judaism, nor about his embrace of the nobility of other faiths, nor about the authenticity and achievement of creating enduring organizations and movements that connected us with each other.
No surprise he was one of the pioneers in creating an interfaith and interracial council of religious leaders in metropolitan Chicago. After a quarter of a century of its founding, he was still a vital and creative contributor to that council – so much so that I looked forward to attending the next meeting on the promise that Herman would be present.
No surprise he was one of the pioneers in creating a global interfaith and multicultural parliament of the world’s religions committed to cultivating harmony among the faiths and spiritualities, committed to engaging the important institutions of our human community, committed to achieving justice, and peace, and the earth’s flourishing. I count it a great privilege to serve now as the executive director of that organization that Herman had such a large part in creating.
His death leaves me with a sense of void, a sense of vacuum. His life, however, lives in me and all the thousands upon thousands favored, graced, blessed by his century of presence.