Tribute to my Teacher Baruj Dayan Haemet. Moreinu Harab Azriel son of Najúm Kreiman. Angel Kreiman Brill Z.L. Rab harrashi lesheabar mekehilat Chile. Tehé menujató Tzrurá bitzror Ajaim.
There are moments that, although we know that sooner or later will come, we are never ready for them to arrive. It was only a week ago, that my teacher, who taught me the few things I know about Judaism and who transmitted me his passion for Am Israel, was spending some days – Sabbath included – at my home. And today, with deepest sorrow I announce that death found him at Rancagua Hospital in Chile, last Sunday.
During the many conversations we had, he shared with me his concern for having turned 68, the age his mentor, role model and beloved Great Rabbi Guillermo Schlesinger Z.L. had when he passed away. Ángel, who considered the Congregación Israelita of the Argentine Republic as his mother’s womb, and had for Schlesinger the admiration and devotion that one feels for a father, could not help fulfilling the determinism he had imposed on himself, as part of the deep mystery of life.
He was the first Rabbi graduated at the Latin American Rabbinical Seminary 40 years ago. He was a lawyer graduated at the Buenos Aires University, and held a Doctorate in Law, by the Free University of Colombia. He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Divinity by the Theological Seminary of America.
Between 1970 and 1990, he was the Chief Rabbi of Chile. Later, he was appointed Rabbi of the Congregación Israelita of the Argentine Republic. He was appointed International Vice-President of the World Council of Synagogues and advised the United States government in matters of religious freedom in Latin America. In 1998, he visited Jordan, where he was received by King Hussein as a guest of honor. The trip was a starting point for the Jewish-Islamic dialogue in Latin America.
He was an extraordinary human being, both loved and hated, full of virtues and defects. He offered to many generations his dedication and love for Hashem and the Torah of Israel, working hard and living life to its fullest. His vocation for Judaism was a platform to reach all human beings.
He was admired, praised, mistreated, and, many times, underestimated, but he never went unnoticed. He stood out. He felt the need to call the attention; he wanted to be different, and, in fact, he was. It is not easy to be different in a world that seeks homogeneity.
He was a learned man, with refined and classic tastes. However, he could adapt himself to the most varied realities or situations, as the multiple faces that he hosted inside. He was part of the life of countless people: benei mitzvá, weddings, divorces, burials, majanot and all kinds of situations that form part of the cycle of life.
He was a permanent reference of and devoted himself to interreligious dialogue and the struggle for human rights. His life was full of significant political events, among them the Vicaría de la Solidaridad with Pinochet in Chile, his friendship with several politicians in other times. He received plenty of awards, both nationally and internationally, such as the one he received for working together with the Chilean Catholic Church for the sake of human dignity.
His meetings with numerous statesmen and his story of life are recorded in the Library of the Jewish University in Jerusalem. But, above all, he liked to be a great host, setting and decorating the table beautifully, and putting on it delicious meals, which he himself loved to cook.
The Jewish Community of Chile – to which he devoted his life for 40 years, out of which 22 he became its Chief Rabbi – will never be able to measure up to what extent his unselfish work shaped the Community.
There were many turning points in the life of Ángel, his three daughters and wife, Suzy (Z.L.) who used to be his counterweight and balance, and whose murder in the Amia attack in 1994 in Buenos Aires would twist his life forever.
Over the last years he settled in Jerusalem, a couple of blocks away from the Great Synagogue, were – as usual- he was admired and acknowledged for his presence, elegance, knowledge of the liturgy and ability to create bonds.
He walked different ideological paths; he indulged in every experience. During his last years, he formally approached the Orthodoxy; I guess that his style and taste for the classic might have had something to do with it, although his free spirit led him to antagonist pathways.
One day he chose me as disciple. He taught me, with success and errors, his way of living Judaism. I learned to choose the good, and to thank for what he gave me as a teacher and friend.
Tzadik Beemunató Ijye. The just shall live by his faith. You lived by your faith, and from there you brightened us with both lights and shadows.
Written by: Miguel Steuermann, Student and friend of Rabbi Kreiman z”l
Director General at Radio Jai Argentina
Afikim Representative, South America