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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


 

August 24, 2018  RSS feed
Front Page

Text: T T T

Rabbi Daniel Treiser eulogized as ‘life unfinished’

By BOB FRYER Jewish Press

He was a kid in a grown-up’s body and a walking trivia resource who loved to wear costumes. He was also a man of God, a loving husband and father, a lover of the Torah, and a rabbi beloved by his congregation and so many more who considered themselves lucky to have known him.

At age 46, when he should have been in the prime of his life, with so many more adventures in store, so much more to teach his congregants and his children, Rabbi Daniel Treiser died in his sleep on Friday morning, Aug. 17, leaving a void in the hearts of so many who knew him.

Since 2008 Rabbi Treiser had led Temple B’nai Israel in Clearwater, and in spite of a lengthy battle against cancer, as recently as June he led congregants on a tour of Israel and a week later joined in the St. Pete Pride parade. Earlier in the spring, he traveled with youths from his congregation to participate in the anti-gun violence March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C.


Rabbi Daniel Treiser, second from left, uses his culinary skills to prepare food with others for Temple B’nai Israel’s annual Casino Night fundraiser. Rabbi Daniel Treiser, second from left, uses his culinary skills to prepare food with others for Temple B’nai Israel’s annual Casino Night fundraiser. “It isn’t fair. I miss my best friend … and my partner in mischief,” said Rabbi Michael Churgel during funeral services for Rabbi Treiser on Sunday, Aug. 19, before a crowd of about 800 mourners. Rabbi Churgel, who was in the same rabbinic class with Rabbi Treiser, called him “A mensch, through and through.”

Likening Rabbi Treiser’s life to one of the greatest pieces of music, Franz Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony, Rabbi Churgel said, “It leaves us sad at the thought of unfinished years, but grateful for the life that was, nevertheless, a masterpiece,” reminding family, friends and colleagues that Rabbi Treiser will live on in the inspiration, vision, kindness and laughter that he instilled in others.


Rabbi Treiser, far right, traveled with youths from throughout the Tampa Bay area for the March For Our Lives protest against gun violence in Washington, D.C. in March. Rabbi Treiser, far right, traveled with youths from throughout the Tampa Bay area for the March For Our Lives protest against gun violence in Washington, D.C. in March. Many wept during the service and several speakers choked up as they spoke, but there were also some humorous and touching moments as Rabbi Churgel shared tales of Rabbi Treiser’s romantic side.

On a date with his future wife, Rachel, before he was a rabbi, Treiser once took her to the top of the Empire State Building and had small speakers set up to play Nat King Cole’s “When I Fall in Love with You” as they danced.

He also took Rachel to a taping of the television show Mad About You. Before the taping began a man warming up the audience came up to them and said, “You look like a happy couple.” Treiser replied that they were very much like the characters in the show, then got down on one knee and proposed. Helen Hunt heard what was happening, stopped the production crew and got the audience to help celebrate the proposal. After the taping, the newly engaged couple was invited backstage to visit with Hunt and co-star Paul Reiser.


Rabbi Treiser loved dressing up in costumes. For Purim, he was the Edna Turnblad character from “Hairspray.” Other Purim celebrants (L-R): cantorial soloist Laura Berkson, Barbara Bloom and Denise Kirschbaum. Rabbi Treiser loved dressing up in costumes. For Purim, he was the Edna Turnblad character from “Hairspray.” Other Purim celebrants (L-R): cantorial soloist Laura Berkson, Barbara Bloom and Denise Kirschbaum. Rabbi Steven Kaye, who had mentored Rabbi Treiser, told mourners that his friend was larger than life in stature but “a kid at heart.”

“Dan was always ready for a new adventure … he was big in the way he loved life,” Rabbi Kaye said. He was proud to be NFTY (North American Federation of Temple Youth) regional rabbinic advisorand to serve on the rabbinic faculty at Camp Coleman, a Reform movement summer camp in Georgia.


Rabbi Treiser with Andrew Maxwell during the Simchat Torah service last year. 
Photos fromFacebook, theTemple B’naiIsrael websiteor courtesy ofthe temple. Rabbi Treiser with Andrew Maxwell during the Simchat Torah service last year. Photos fromFacebook, theTemple B’naiIsrael websiteor courtesy ofthe temple. “He loved Torah and teaching Torah … He was much more than a rabbi,” Rabbi Kaye said before looking at Rabbi Treiser’s family – wife Rachel, and their children, Elana, 16, and Ethan, 13, – and telling them, “He was a loving husband and father. Rachel was the love of his life.” He said the rabbi deeply loved his children and delighted in the fun times they shared.

Barbara Bloom, Temple B’nai Is- rael’s director of engagement who was on the temple staff for Rabbi Treiser’s entire 10-year tenure, reminded mourners of the rabbi’s well-known sense of humor, then quipped, “You know, if the rabbi were here right now he would say, “This is what I had to do to get you all here?”

Bloom had everyone laughing when she told a story about a day when Rabbi Treiser went to visit the preschoolers and the director asked some of the children if they knew who he was. “He came back to the office so excited to tell us that the kids thought he was GOD!”

“You smiled and put up with Dr. Ruth talking about sex from your bimah – not just sex, but spoke directly to Rachel about you,” Bloom said.

She also spoke of his passion for social justice. “I thought you were crazy for pushing yourself” to go to the March for Our Lives, but added, “I get it now.”

Bloom said the rabbi always had the right words to say at funerals and hoped hers were adequate for him.

“You lifted us out of the storm 10 years ago … ” she said, later adding. “You restored our identity and self-worth as a congregation. Thank you for sharing your big life with us. You did good.”

Rabbi Treiser’s daughter Elana recalled the time her dad surprised her with tickets to Wicked, and how much he enjoyed her Bat Mitzvah and NFTY trips with her and how two months ago she was in Israel with him – all before “the worst day of my life.” In tears and a cracking voice she said, “I lost my role model and the best dad I could ever ask for.”

She said for years people called her “little Treiser” and she hated the nickname, but now “it is the biggest compliment I could ever get.”

Elana said that unlike her dad, “I do not know every line from every movie,” but said she loved that her dad used to quote lines all the time. His most oft quoted movies were Star Wars, Vacation, Airplane, Blazing Saddles and Die Hard.

She also said that thanks to her dad, “Now, I can not physically make a decision without considering every logical outcome.”

Jody Treiser Greenspoon, the rabbi’s sister, was among many who noted that her brother loved to dress in costume and that he loved telling stories – winning several storytelling awards in elementary school. She said she went to her first concert with her brother to hear Billy Joel “in enemy territory – Yankee Stadium … We are Mets fans from Queens.” She also told of his love for Disney World and how he accumulated “fast passes” and loved to wear a T-shirt that read, “I am Grumpy because you are Dopey.”

She also talked about the empathetic side of her brother. As a proponent for a bone marrow project she talked her brother into giving a cheek swab and joining the registry. Then just as his wife Rachel was about to give birth to Elana, he was told he was a match for a woman with cancer and he flew to Atlanta to donate bone marrow – an act that saved her life. Later, he got to meet the woman.

As he was declining in health and family members gathered around him, Jody said, “Not once did I hear him ask, ‘Why me?’” She said, “He loved his work. It was his oxygen. Few people in life find their calling, but Dan found his.”

Rabbi Treiser was born on Dec. 21, 1971 and raised in Queens. He earned his bachelor’s degree in communications from Queen’s College in 1993 then dedicated a year of his life to Project Otzma in Israel, where he studied Hebrew and participated in community service and leadership training. He received a master’s in Hebrew Letters from Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles and was ordained from HUC – Jewish Institute of Religion in New York in 2000. Prior to joining Temple B’nai Israel, he was associate rabbi at Temple Kol Ami Emanu-El in Plantation. Within the community, he was a member and former president of the Pinellas County Board of Rabbis and served for many years on the board of SEACCAR, the South East Association of the Central Conference of American Rabbis. He participated in a number of interfaith programs.

Caren Treiser, the rabbi’s mother, told the crowd of mourners: “The world lost a mensch on Friday. Rachel, Elana and Ethan lost their husband and their father. You lost your rabbi, spiritual leader and friend, and I lost my son and most of all, my heart. But now it is time for you to learn how much he loved each of us. Tell him anything great about any of us and he would beam. Tell him of one of us in trouble and he would be there to help. … You loved him, but he adored you.”

A fund is being set up for Rabbi Treiser’s family. Those wishing to contribute should send checks made out to the Rabbi Daniel Treiser Family Assistance Fund, c/o Temple B’nai Israel, 1685 S. Belcher Road, Clearwater, FL 33764.


Rachel, Elan and Ethan - I'm

Rachel, Elan and Ethan - I'm sending you my deepest sympathies and wishes for strength at this time. I knew your incredible husband and dad when we were just 21 years old and journeyed together to Israel on Project Otzma. Even 25 years ago, he was the compassionate, loving, joyful man you all have known. He has touched so many lives and I believe his beautiful spirit lives on in many ways through his work, through you and all of the positivity he spread with each kindness and contagious smile. Sincerely, Traci (Levin) Grossfeld

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