Clifton, NJ - Norfolk’s tight knit Jewish community came together this morning to say a final farewell to a beloved member, paying their respects to Rabbi Reuven Bauman, z’l, whose body was found Sunday in the ocean waters off the southern Virginia coastline after a six day search that drew volunteers from hundreds of miles away.
Tears flowed freely at the B’nai Israel Congregation as Rabbi Bauman was eulogized by his father, Rabbi Mark Bauman, who thanked the many people involved in the search, saying that many had become like family members. Rabbi Bauman said that he is confident that when his son entered the water to save the struggling child and disappeared completely from sight, he was taken immediately to the heavens, his neshama kissed by Hashem, a method of death accorded to greatest of tzadikim.
Others who spoke during the funeral, which lasted for over an hour were Rabbi Bauman’s father in law, Rabbi Joel Stern, B’nai Israel’s spiritual leader, Rabbi Sender Haber and brother in law Yisrael Schwartz.
“Reuven had a gift,” said Schwartz in his eulogy. “He always made you feel like a somebody. He always made me feel good every time I spoke to him.”
Schwartz noted that Rabbi Bauman made an impression everywhere he went, leaving his mark in Savannah, Georgia where he had taught previously. In Norfolk, Rabbi Bauman became deeply involved with his young students, instinctively knowing what each one needed.
There was nothing Rabbi Bauman wouldn’t do for a child, observed Schwartz, and the 35 year old father of five modeled a life of Torah Judaism for others, something that became all too clear when he jumped into the water to save a child in danger.
“What happened this week, the greatest kiddush Hashem that happened this week, all the Tehillim, all the challah taking, all the learning done, every mitzvah that was done, everything was a humongous kiddush Hashem,” said Schwartz. “It all just propelled Reuven’s neshama higher and higher and higher, so high. He lived his life to make a kiddush Hashem. We all know he left here with the absolute greatest kiddush Hashem that we were able to accomplish for him.”
Rabbi Haber lauded Rabbi Bauman as a beacon of light to the Norfolk community, noting that one who teaches a child who cannot learn Torah from their own parents is gifted with the ability to transmit the Torah exactly as if it were being spoken by G-d on Mount Sinai.
Rabbi Haber also shared that on the rare occasion that Rabbi Bauman would ask for something it was clear that the request was being made for a family member and never for himself.
In addition to those who were at B’nai Israel for the funeral, a teleconference line was created to allow others to listen in to the service, with resources allocated to accommodate 40,000 callers.
The line maxed out, with numerous other callers finding themselves listening to a recorded message saying that the teleconference was at capacity and that no more callers could be added to the line.
Rabbi Bauman’s body was flown on a private jet to Westchester County Airport, accompanied by a police escort during the final journey to King Solomon Memorial Park in Clifton, New Jersey, where despite the heat, approximately 1,000 people turned out to pay their respects.
During a short graveside service, Rabbi Bauman was recalled by K’hal Adath Jeshurun’s chief Rabbi, Rabbi Yisroel Mantel, as jewel of the community who both lived and died sanctifying the name of G-d. Brother Mordechai Bauman noted that the family has accepted the painful divine decree, saying, “the only thing we talk about is that it’s all from Hashem. We don’t understand it. We don’t need to understand it. We are mikabel.”
Bauman observed that a person in born with a tightly clenched fist and is buried with an open hand, signifying that an individual starts life as a taker but learns to be a giver over time. Referencing his brother’s heroic act of selflessness, Bauman said, “Reuven’s hands were always open until the very last moment.”
In a show of respect for the lifesaving act for which he paid the ultimate price, Rabbi Montal instructed the chevra kadisha to bury Rabbi Bauman in the front row of KAJ’s newly expanded section among its most prominent members.
Rabbi Bauman was laid to rest next to Rabbi Eliyahu Glucksman who served as a dayan for the kehillah and across the road from its revered leaders including Rabbi Joseph Breuer, Rabbi Shimon Schwab and Rabbi Zechariah Gelley. He is survived by his wife Tzivia, his children Shira, Yaakov, Zevi, Yehuda and Tziri, his parents Rabbi Mark and Mrs. Esther Bauman and his siblings Mordechai, Moshe, Yosef, Binyamin and Shimon Bauman, Miriam Leah Schwartz, Shoshana Greenbaum, Sarah, Avigail, Yocheved and Nechama Bauman.
In a post-funeral interview with VIN News, Schwartz said that Rabbi Bauman was ushered from this world to the next as a true tzaddik, accompanied by a torrent of mitzvos and demonstrations of unity that circled the globe.
“From one step to the next you could feel his guiding hand,” Schwartz told VIN News. “Flying back today to New Jersey on the plane with his body, I felt like I was in the presence of a tzaddik, like we were in the midbar carrying Yosef’s bones out of Mitzrayim. No one gets to be escorted out of this world the way that he was.”