The Zionist Conspiracy
Friday, February 16, 2007
This post contains quotes from conversations that occurred in 1995. While I can represent that the quotes are substantially accurate, they are based on my memory and therefore are paraphrased.
During interview week before the start of my second year of law school, I mentioned to a classmate that I was interested in participating in Columbia's Wednesday night learning program. Wednesday night learning was from 8:00-9:00 P.M., and I would be taking Rabbi Saul Berman's Jewish law class on Wednesdays from 6:00-7:40, so it seemed like a good idea.
A young woman called me on the evening of September 5, 1995, saying that she heard I was interested in coming to Wednesday night learning. I told her that I'd be particularly interested in learning with a non-observant college student. "Great! We're starting tomorrow night. Just ask for me - my name is Beth Samuels."
The thing is, I did want to come to Wednesday night learning, but ... tomorrow night I couldn't do it. I was busy tomorrow night.
"Tomorrow night is a little difficult for me ... I need to be in Brooklyn by 8:30," I said.
"You really should come tomorrow night. It's the first week of the semester. Everyone will be there." Beth said.
"I guess I could come at around 7:45 but I could only stay for a few minutes. Is that okay? I can definitely be there next week, it's just tomorrow night is hard."
"Sure! I'll see you tomorrow night," Beth said.
I had actually thought about skipping Rabbi Berman's class, but the first class is usually important to attend.
So after the class, on the evening of Wednesday September 6, 1995, I walked quickly to Earl Hall. I could only stay for a few minutes. It was one thing for me to miss the first 4 innings, but I had to be home by the 5th inning, when the Orioles vs. Angels game became official and Cal Ripken had played his record 2131st consecutive game. This was not something I could miss.
I walked into Earl Hall. Couldn't miss the sidurim and chumashim next to the safe sex pamphlets.
I didn't need to look for Beth.
"Hi! I'm Beth," said Beth, introducing herself a few seconds after I arrived.
I told her that I couldn't stay, just wanted to stop by, see what Wednesday night learning looked like, and that I'd be back there next week.
Before I could say anything, she was gone.
She was back two minutes later, and introduced me to my chavrusa, a guy from Pennsylvania named Steve.
I didn't stay until 9, but I stayed a lot longer than a few minutes.
When I got home the last out of the top of the 5th had been made. The celebration and ceremonies had started around 10 minutes earlier.
I made sure to come to Wednesday night learning for the full hour the next week. Actually, I had gotten into a car accident during the ensuing Saturday night, had headaches, some nausea, was a bit disoriented and had to take two trains home, but I knew I had to come, as I told Beth and Steve I would.
I took a class with Rabbi Berman during both semesters of my second year of law school, and learned with Steve afterward each week.
* * *
During my second and third years of law school - her last two years of college - I knew Beth from Wednesday night learning and from attending mincha at Earl Hall. She was a campus leader who organized all kinds of Jewish activities. I lived in Brooklyn rather than on campus, and wouldn't say I knew her very well, but in addition to Wednesday night learning, I did talk with her a few times about shabbatons and other Jewish events she set up, and about a new organization and publication for young unaffiliated Jews that she was involved in starting up.
After law school, I saw her perhaps a few times on the Upper West Side. Her name would sometimes come up - she was involved with Drisha, and was going to Yale for a PhD in math.
Last month I was juggling a number of different cases on a busy Monday morning. There were depositions to prepare for, subpoenas to respond to, and motions to oppose. I remembered that I had two weddings in Brooklyn that week that I needed to be on time for. It was going to be a very long day in the office.
I quickly and impatiently checked my non-work related e-mail. Yeah, the Jets lost the wildcard. Thanks for the reminder. A friend e-mailed about his trip to LA. He wrote:
"I do not know if you remember a girl at Columbia who ran the learning program once a week named Beth Samuels ... She graduated and went to Drisha. Then she got married and received a Ph.D. in Math at Yale ... She was most recently a math professor at [Berkeley]. She and her husband had two kids... On Shabbos, the wife suddenly mentioned to her husband that Beth died on Friday."
* * *
It's almost always a shock when a 31 year old woman passes away. I thought about Beth's energy, her dynamic personality. I was very saddened by her tragic passing. It was almost unfathomable that she was no longer alive.
There were still depositions to prepare for, subpoenas to respond to, and motions to oppose. It was a long day at the office but not as long a day as I thought it would be. I remembered that I had two weddings in Brooklyn that week that would keep me away from home until late. So I went home before it was too late to spend some time with my children.
May Beth's family be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem and may her memory be a blessing.