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A tribute to my uncle, Rabbi Joshua B. Gordon

Friday, 12 February, 2016 - 1:55 pm

I just got back from spending some time in California where my mother and her family are sitting shiva upon the passing of her brother, Rabbi Joshua B. Gordon. Some of you may remember my uncle from his visits to New Orleans and the talks that he gave while he was here. He passed away from an illness at the early age of 66. Rabbi Gordon was a wonderful family man, a son, husband, father, grandfather, sibling and uncle. He was the spiritual leader of Chabad of Encino, Rabbi and teacher to many at the Chabad House he and his wife Deborah founded in 1973, upon being sent by the Rebbe to the San Fernando Valley. He was a great friend and colleague to many. These qualities alone would suffice to sum up an accomplished life. But there are people that take things to the next level. Individuals, who by maximizing the talents and gifts that they were given by G-d, achieve the extraordinary. I would like to briefly share four areas of life in which my uncle Josh achieved the extraordinary.

The first is in the area of family. In every family there are times that call for someone to step up and take a leadership role. In the Gordon extended family that person was Josh. For privacy reasons I will not go into details, but whenever there was a need for advice, assistance, a listening ear, or a decision, he was there as a reliable anchor. He was a person that everyone in the family respected and upon whom one could rely for real guidance and real. Decisions in caring for aged parents, dealing with emergencies and unexpected crises, walking someone through a challenge, were just some of the areas in which he took a leadership role in the family.

The second is community. Rabbi and Mrs. Gordon were sent to establish Chabad in the Valley (outside of Los Angeles). Instead of just servicing the Jews of his immediate environs in Encino, over the course of 43 years, Rabbi Gordon directed a revolution, turning Chabad of the Valley into a powerhouse. Chabad of the Valley now has a network of 26 Chabad centers – each of them teaming with Jewish activity and transforming Jewish life in their respective communities. Each of the Shluchim couples serving those 26 centers attest to the depths of Rabbi Gordon’s involvement and care for each of them and their Chabad Houses. My brother, Rabbi Eliyohu Rivkin, at Chabad of Northridge – one of the 26 centers in the Valley – shared with me this week how supportive and involved Rabbi Gordon was and that he was available to them at all times.

The third is his support for Shluchim. Over the course of his years of experience directing the institutions of Chabad of the Valley, Rabbi Gordon developed some principles that were exceedingly effective in dealing with the many challenges and opportunities that the life of a Chabad Shliach can present. Working in an organization that has multiple personalities requires wisdom in navigating and for effectively neutralizing possible conflicts those personalities can pose. Over the past 20 years Rabbi Gordon became an address to whom hundreds of Shluchim turned for help with conflict resolution or advice and mentoring in any area of Shlichus that may arise. He was a true mentor to his Shluchim brethren.

The fourth is Torah communication. Rabbi Gordon, inspired by the example of my grandfather, Rabbi Sholom Gordon, always saw teaching Torah as his primary role and tool in impacting Jewish life. He used his great communication skills, unique sense of humor and wonderful clarity, in sharing Torah with the Jews of his community, as well as the many communities around the world that had the privilege of hearing him lecture and teach. Some years ago Chabad.org and Rabbi Gordon joined forces to make his daily classes available online for anybody to access. Within a short time Rabbi Gordon Live took off. He taught the entire Torah following the daily Parshah schedule, the entire Tanya (yearly cycle) and the entire Mishna Torah of the Rambam (following the three year cycle). Millions of hours of classes have been accessed via Chabad.org. Tens of thousands of students were following these classes on a regular basis. Chabad.org had just launched an app two weeks ago – Rabbi Gordon App – www.chabadneworleans.com/3213396.

The loss is tremendous. A family bereft of their anchor. A community bereft of its Rabbi and leader. Shluchim bereft of their mentor. Students bereft of their teacher. An ordinary man who maximized his potential and utilized his leadership skills and clarity of purpose to impact so many in extraordinary ways. Rabbi Gordon was truly a high ranking officer in the Rebbe’s army and his efforts have certainly brought closer the Rebbe’s dream of a world of redemption.

May his family, both in the literal and broader sense, be comforted by Hashem among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem and may we very soon merit the final redemption when we will once again be reunited with our loved ones who have passed on. Amen.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

 

Comments on: A tribute to my uncle, Rabbi Joshua B. Gordon
2/14/2018

Elka wrote...

I’m listening Rabbi Gordon lectures now, in 2018.
They are amazing. May his memory be for blessings!