Rita Pauker Whoops With Delight Over OU Decision To Disinvite Steve Friedman

I call Rita Monday afternoon.

Luke: “What’s your reaction to the OU decision?”

Rita yells “Yahoo! I was hysterically happy. Ohmigod, justice has been served. I was thrilled.”

Luke: “Were you surprised?”

Rita: “Semi-surprised.”

Luke: “Where did the four Torah scrolls come from?”

Rita: “I left God to my husband. I did the kitchen duty and the functions in the synagogue. I understand that one of them came from his father and one came from his sister that had been originally in the Young Israel of the Bronx.”

Luke: “What’s been your relationship with Judaism and with God over the course of your life?”

Rita: “My mother’s mother was murdered during the Khazac raids on Russia when my mother was five. One of the brothers was murdered. Somehow they came to the United States. My mother had this zen for religion. She just had this feeling for God. She passed it on to my sister and myself.”

Luke: “Were you ever observant in an Orthodox fashion?”

Rita: “I have never been shomer Shabbos, which means a Sabbath-observer. My mother said you don’t sew on Friday night and Saturday and you don’t write and you don’t do this and that, but she didn’t know all there was to know about Orthodoxy, because she arrived at it through her own learning.”

Luke: “Was it hard for you to be married to an Orthodox rabbi?”

Rita: “Not when you’re in love! He was a wonderful guy. A brilliant speaker. Understanding. That he accepted me. He was strictly Orthodox, for him to have accepted me was a big sacrifice for him but that’s what love does. We were married 33 years.”

Luke: “What was the key to your marriage working?”

Rita: “It’s only love. You just love somebody. You just do. It happens. I learned about how it goes from romantic love to an even deeper deeper kind of love. You have to have respect. It’s when that that goes away that you have nothing. That goes for friendships too.”

Luke: “How has the Jewish community reacted to you with your dispute to get these Torah scrolls?”

Rita: “The people I know are just amazed.”

“My husband was trying to sell his synagogue [Mishkan Israel]. That’s when he got deeply involved with Ohana, who talked about buying it. My husband wrote up on a legal-sized pad certain things he wanted to stipulate. One of the things, and I have a copy, it says ‘Torah for Rita’s retirement.’ He meant to say Torahs.”

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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