We attended the gala in memory of Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz that took place recently in Jerusalem.
Liza Even-Israel, CMO of the Steinsaltz Center and Daughter-in-law of the Rabbi said: "One of the most amazing things that I see concerning my father-in-law is how appreciative people are for the gifts that he gave the world. For example, just a couple of weeks ago, I had my vegetables delivered, and all of a sudden the guy on the phone I’ve never met him… and he said, ‘Do you know that if it wasn’t for your father-in-law, I would never be able to learn Gemara (Talmud -ed.).’ All the time people come up and they’re so thankful and they’re so happy to be able to access this, because otherwise they wouldn't be able to."
Ron Dermer, former Israeli Ambassador to the US and student of Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz, OBM, added: “I have many memories with the rav (rabbi). I met him for the first time 27 years ago when I was a student at university. But the memory that sticks out in my mind was when I was appointed ambassador to the United States. He asked to see me, and of course I was always honored to go see him. I had a chance over two decades to sit with him a couple dozen times.”
"He said, 'You know why ambassadors keep their title forever? Because you are the representative of the sovereign, of the state, and once sovereignty is transferred it is never fully removed.' Now that was Rabbi Steinsaltz's way of telling me - you don't represent one person, you don't represent one government, you represent the State of Israel."
Dermer continued: "It was always a unique privilege and an experience to sit with the rav and talk with him because of his breadth of Jewish and secular knowledge. He would never speak to you directly. There were always hints, and I think it was something of a game to figure out if you could understand what he was trying to tell you. And sometimes I did and sometimes I didn’t. And if I didn’t it wasn’t because of the rav, it was because of me because he was speaking on multiple levels."
"I think he was called a scholar that comes along once in a millennium, and I think that was true. That’s what I experienced. His was a great loss to our people. But I think we can minimize that loss somewhat by continuing in that mission," he said.
Even-Israel explained that, "Right now [the Steinsaltz Center] is working on the archives. When you see the amount of information that one man managed to put out, it’s astounding. It’s a big gift to the world. Personally, being related to him is a very big honor."
Dermer spoke about Rabbi Steinsaltz's mission: "His mission was to try to expand Jewish knowledge as much as possible. He left a remarkable legacy in his life and what the Steinsaltz Center is trying to do today is not only to release the translation of his commentary on the Mishnah and on the Rambam but also to launch an app that will be a platform to spread Jewish knowledge around the world in the digital age."
"He gave Jews the tools to be able to learn for themselves," Even-Israel said. "As we enter the digital age, the Steinsaltz Center is looking forward to new innovation and new ways to have people access Jewish education, Jewish learning, Jewish knowledge."
Dermer added: "Whether we like it or not, the next generation is online… But at the end of the day Jews always embrace change. There are many problems with the digital age but we have to make it a place where Jewish learning can thrive."
Rabbi Michael Allouche, who is an award-winning aviation expert, has a deep connection with Rabbi Steinsaltz, which continues until today through the work he does by translating the rabbi's books into French.
"Rabbi Adin had almost an obsession with interacting with whoever he might be speaking to in the way they could relate to," Rabbi Allouche said, adding that this "proves that Torah can be learned by all and understood by all, and that each one of us. no matter what we do, and who we are, we can be connected to Torah."
Rabbi Meni Even-Israel, director of the Steinsaltz center and son of the late rabbi, said: "My father always pushed us not to stop dreaming, to always look towards the future, to plan new projects, to conceive new ideas, not to waste time looking back but to always look forward to tomorrow, that in his eyes was always so exciting. A man full of ideas who never stopped dreaming, and we work today on making his dreams come true. 'Let my people know' was his motto and that is what we work on every single day at the Center, involving technology and exciting new ideas to make Torah reachable to everyone."