At the academy (Ida Crown), there were all kinds of kids, some more, some less observant,” Averick says. “Everyone there, whether or not they were observant, had an instinctive respect for him. They understood he represented something that was holy. There were kids who were not so interested in learning, but for him they would stand up. He really was a Talmid chachem (Torah scholar). He sort of radiated from high, but it was not something he demanded from people.

From Chain of Miracles, by Pauline Dubkin Yearwood

I just got this article in the mail from my dad, and it certainly took me right back to the teenage days. The quote above is from an article about Rabbi Meyer Juzint Z”L, an incredibly beloved teacher from my high school. It also perfectly captures how we all felt about him. Coming from a liberal Jewish family into an Orthodox high school, I fell into the category of “less observant” by a certain standard. Talmud study was a real challenge for me back then compared to my classmates who had grown up with it (real talk: still a challenge for me), so at times I was one of those kids who was less interested in learning. But we all loved Rebbe Juzint; and everyone stood up when he entered the room. It wasn’t out of a sense of formality and decorum; that was simply how much we all respected him.

I was lucky enough to go to his home with some friends on a Sunday morning or two to learn privately with him. It was considered a privilege, and I’ll hold it dearly with me forever. My sophomore or junior year, I was put into one of his classes and it felt like the honor of a lifetime, even though I struggled through the whole year. I was sort of a weird kid in high school (still am), and I sense that perhaps Rebbe Juzint didn’t entirely know what to make of me. But he taught me with the same quiet love that he brought to all of his students.

We did have our moments, though. A story:

While in many ways my high school wasn’t like most others, we still had seniors pulling pranks on an annual basis. The best one I ever saw was my sophomore year, when a bunch of guys filled the school with live chickens. They were running around a maze of benches in the atrium on the top floor, they were all over the place. I salute whoever was behind it to this day.

I was on my way to morning prayers in the auditorium when all of  sudden I heard Rebbe Juzint calling me from down the hall, “Dovid! Dovid! Come here! You have to see this!” I ran over to him, thinking that something was wrong, only to find him standing in front of what was usually the school’s trophy case. But there weren’t any trophies because the thing was filled with chickens.

“Chickens, Dovid! Look at the chickens!”

Rebbe Juzint was giggling hysterically at the whole thing, and I’d never seen anything like it from him. Laughing with this sacred man was beautiful as any moment I ever had at that school. I’d like to think that he was instinctively appealing to the oddball in me by calling me over to see the chickens.

His memory is nothing but a blessing for all of those who were lucky enough to learn with him. I’ll never forget that I got to laugh with him, too. Wherever he is, I hope he’s found the peace that he so richly deserved.

And to this day, I still don’t know the fate of the chickens.