Walter Sommers welcomed Shabbat at the Temple, among the numberless generations

By Betsy Frank

Betsy Frank is UHC para-rabbinic fellow and president.

I don’t always plan which readings to include before I lead Shabbat services.

Normally, I just pick a reading at the last moment during the service. But I’m frequently amazed that the reading I pick seems so pertinent to the day.

During a recent service, right after we lit the Shabbat candles, I selected the reading at the top of Page 124 in Mishkan Tefilah.

This prayer begins:

We enter this sanctuary to welcome Shabbat.
Within these walls we sit surrounded by numberless generations.
Our ancestors built the synagogue as a sign of God’s Presence in their midst.

Walter recognized the beauty of the Kaddish prayer

As I read this unplanned reading, I got a lump in my throat. A beloved member of those numberless generations had just passed away — Walter Sommers.

Walter Sommers engages an admirer from his usual seat in the Vestry Room.

Looking out on the Vestry Room, I could picture Walter in his usual seat.

When I recited Kaddish to close the service, I had to read the whole prayer in English after the Hebrew.

Why? Walter always asked to hear the full prayer in English because he believed, as do many others, that the translation is beautiful.

All of you know Walter’s accomplishments, so I don’t need to repeat them here.

But one thing you may not know is he had an incredible memory!

Walter could remember details of events that had occurred more than 70 years ago, His stories enriched all our lives.

Walter could remember details of events that had occurred more than 70 years ago, His stories enriched all our lives.

Walter was among those numberless generations who welcomed Shabbat, as told in that Mishkan Tefilah prayer.

These generations have taught us much. They formed the foundation of our congregation.

May Walter and all those before him be remembered for a blessing.

Shalom,

Betsy Frank

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