Making Torah Personal - A Tribute to Richard Stone

Friday, 10 June, 2022 - 11:27 am

In anticipation of Shavuot last weekend, we were planning the traditional all-night learning schedule. I was being encouraged to consider a theme for the event, around which all the presentations would revolve. Schematically this is a good idea. For some reason I was resisting the idea and I could not put my finger on why I was so reluctant. As I was introducing some of our presenters on Saturday night, it hit me. I invited people to share what they were passionate about in Torah, which would hopefully be interesting to others.

During our prayers we recite, “grant us our portion of Your Torah.” This implies that each of us has a part of the Torah that is “our portion.” When a person is drawn to a particular theme, section, or topic in the Torah, it may very well be because this is their portion. The enthusiasm we experience over our portion, can be shared with others in a way that can be interesting and inspiring. Of course, there is room for thematic programming. Occasionally it is good to allow the organic attraction to a something specific be in the driver’s seat.

Last week we learned of the passing of Richard Stone. Richard was a favorite native son of the New Orleans Jewish community, despite moving away in the 1960s to attend Harvard. Much has been written of his many accomplishments, and there were many. A full obituary can be read at:

I would like to share three things on a more personal note, one more personal than the next. Richard retained a profound interest in the New Orleans Jewish community. Family ties brought him to New Orleans often, and he was deeply entwined in the developments of our community. He had a strong sense for picking up nuance, and he did his utmost to be engaged in the community across the entire spectrum.

He was particularly proud of what Chabad of Louisiana was accomplishing in the community. As a friend and supporter of our work, he served as the keynote speaker at the 25th anniversary celebration of Chabad in Louisiana. During many of his visits he would come by, and my father and he would spend hours conversing. He also advocated for us in conversations with others.

Finally, years ago, my grandfather was dealing with a complicated legal matter in connection with his business. He wrote a letter to the Rebbe with a request for a blessing and guidance on how to resolve the issue satisfactorily. The Rebbe advised him to find an “orech din yedid” – an attorney who is a friend. I interpret that to mean someone who will take personal interest in the issue, beyond just as a professional matter. My grandfather turned to my father for a suggestion. My father had become quite friendly with Richard Stone, who was an expert in that area of law, and reached out to him about the case. He took the case and handled it as a real friend. This cemented the friendship even more and my grandfather was grateful to him until his last day. Richard mentioned to me on many occasions that he was honored by the moniker that the Rebbe used, Orech Din Yedid, and he was enthusiastic about the friendship and closeness he felt to my grandparents and our family.

Our heartfelt condolences to his children, siblings, and their families. He will be missed. May his memory be a blessing for all who knew him.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin


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