The Mordecai M. Kaplan Center for Jewish Peoplehood

Mordecai M. Kaplan (1881-1983) was one of the most influential Jewish thinkers of the 20th century. We believe that his thought may be even more important in the 21st century.

Eulogy by Dan’s Sons, Sam and Jacob Cedarbaum

First, I want to thank everyone for coming today – especially the many of you who traveled across the country on a moment’s notice. It is a true testament to how loved our dad was and it is such an incredible comfort to our family as we cope with this unimaginable tragedy.

To state the obvious up front, twenty eight and thirty year old sons are not supposed to eulogize their sixty two year old fathers. We thought we had so much more time with our dad. We should have had so much more time.

There should have been another thirty years of vacations with family and friends, holidays at the Evanston homestead, watching my brother and I rise in our careers, find loving partners of our own, and perhaps even have the theoretical future grandchildren for whom he had become increasingly impatient in recent years.

And then, in an instant, there was no more time. No more plans. No more annoying phone calls in the middle of a thirty hour ICU shift just wanting to check in and report back on the new restaurant that he and our mom had tried. No more desperately needed reminders to book plane tickets, pay taxes, contribute to IRAs, call our mother more. No more lazy Sunday mornings with bagels and lox and dramatic readings from the New York Times “Vows” section; always with unsolicited commentary. Just a gaping hole at center of our family where our dad had been…

Even as we bitterly grieve the time that was taken from us, we also celebrate and cherish the time that we had. For thirty years we had the most incredible, loving father that any child could ask for. He and our mother built us a beautiful childhood of unconditional love and support. He and our longtime nanny, Joy, held down the fort at home through our early years while mom had to travel frequently for work. He was a beloved (and surprisingly successful) coach of most of our youth soccer teams; including letting us pick names like “The Great Big Red Fire Dragons.” He stoically spent hours in poorly-ventilated elementary school basements chaperoning the Dewey chess team. Signed up for every parent-teacher conference; even classes like gym and wood shop. Dragged us out of bed, kicking and screaming, Sunday after Sunday for Hebrew School, and raised us with a sense of pride and appreciation for our Jewish heritage. Enthusiastically attended all of our minor and often ill-fated extracurricular endeavors, from bit parts in middle school musicals and entries in local art shows to volleyball and golf matches. Always willing to take all of the cousins out for one more round of go-karting and mini golfing, even when the rest of the adults were done entertaining us.

When we were older, he taught us the joys of good cheese, excellent wine, and refined scotch. We sparred in reckless 20-mile road bike races down Green Bay Road with more red lights run than our mom was ever allowed to know. He became a super-fan of the University of Wisconsin, Carnegie Mellon, and the University of Michigan with all of the tragically color-clashing outfits that support of his sons’ schools entailed. Raucous thanksgiving dinners, boozy neighborhood winter Sing-Alongs, cut-throat games of Hearts, Password, and Scattergories, and annual trips to Florida and Wisconsin kept us anchored as a family; even as the two of us began to drift across the country and into professional careers and adult lives of our own. Whenever we were back in town he would already have curated all of our meals out from a seemingly endless rolodex of new and interesting local restaurants. He never stopped being there for us when we needed him. And when we didn’t know we needed him.

I personally owe my father for igniting my life-long passion for computer science. I can still remember him patiently showing me how to navigate Windows 95 and explaining the difference between a “monitor” and the computer itself. Later, we worked together on an iPhone application for the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation. Eventually, what began with me sitting on his lap and waiting for our family PC to boot-up, ended with him seeing me get my first job at Microsoft.

Perhaps most importantly, he taught us how to be good men, through his example more than anything. Calm but confident. Brilliant but respectful. Sensitive but steady. A kind and generous friend and host to all. An equal and adoring partner in work, love and parenthood with our mother.

Our dad’s life is over now. But the life he lived was beautiful and, in many ways, to be envied. A wonderful childhood of his own in which he wanted for nothing. The chance to attend some of the finest schools in the country. Nearly thirty five years of loving marriage to our mother. Two pretty decent sons. An extended family and numerous other communities who adored and depended on him. A successful professional career in law. And eventually the chance to pursue his passion for Jewish scholarship, building his own non-profit organization from the ground-up.

His life is over now, but this room full of the people he loved and who loved him most is full of wild and precious lives that will continue on in his absence. Enriched in immeasurable and enduring ways by his warmth and kindness. His spirit lives on in each of us now as we soldier onward, together, in a still mostly-beautiful world. 

Thank you all again for coming today. And thank you for loving our dad.

The Mordecai M. Kaplan Center for Jewish Peoplehood

1574 Ashland Avenue, Evanston, IL 60201
Phone: 847-492-5200