It is with profound sadness that I present this letter to you. It was recently submitted as a Letter to the Editor of the TJP, and a few short days after its submission, my dear friend and student Dr. Harvey Oshman was tragically taken from us.
As this project was so near and dear to his heart, Harvey’s widow Trina has named this project as the donation of choice in Harvey’s memory. It is in that spirit, that the editor has asked that we publish this letter posthumously in today’s column, in the same edition carrying Harvey’s obituary (p. 21).
May this project, The Dr. Harvey Oshman Edition of the Encyclopedia of Jewish Thought, be a distinguished and fitting honor to his memory to be made available on his first yahrtzeit, with God’s help:
“It was a cold day by Houston standards as we stood at the foot of my grandmother’s grave. The rabbi spoke well of her life and, as he was completing his remarks, closed by saying, ‘ashes to ashes dust to dust may she live on in our memories.’ As we each proceeded to shovel a bit of dirt onto the casket, a cold shiver of fear ran down my spine.
“ ‘What about her soul?’ I thought. Do Jews not go to heaven? Rather than ask questions, I buried these doubts deep inside and began my trek toward Buddhism and any other religion that seemed to offer more hope than the sterile Judaism of my youth; a Judaism that seemed to provide no feeling, meaning, or spirituality and no answers to my burning questions.
“You might ask who is this guy and why is he telling us his story? My name is Dr. Harvey Oshman and I have been a practicing psychologist in Dallas for over 30 years. My story likely resonates with many of you who have come from a background similar to mine. Bereft of a sound Jewish education, I simply did not know of the concept of ‘olamhaba,’ that all Jews have a share in the world to come and that other religions use the Torah as a springboard for their concepts of a creator.
“This is why Rabbi Yerachmiel Fried’s ‘Ask the Rabbi’ column in the TJP has been so meaningful and inspirational for me. For many years, I have been a loyal subscriber to the TJP and look forward each week to its coming especially for this column. The questions are challenging and intriguing and the answers are always rich, interesting and informative. Rabbi Fried is also willing to explore issues that are controversial and emotionally laden and he does so with respect for the questions and questioner with delicacy and truth in the answers.
“I began to think how wonderful and useful it would be to embark on an endeavor to collate these letters published weekly over the past decade and a half into an encyclopedia of Jewish thought to be available to all who wish to partake of the rich traditions that I wish I had known more about earlier in life.
“After speaking with Rabbi Fried, he has agreed and is excited to embark on this journey. The rabbi was recently contacted by a publishing company in Israel who was also very impressed by the depth and breadth of his columns and has offered to take on this sizable project with the hope that this encyclopedia of Jewish thought, a proposed three-volume publication, will become a mainstay in Jewish homes throughout the English-speaking world.
“There will be a respectable cost in making this dream become a reality. I have taken on chairmanship of this worthy project. If you wish to join me in supporting this endeavor, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. (Harvey had set up a separate email for this project which is no longer in service).
“Tax-deductible donations can be made in the memory of loved ones or in celebration of life events and significant others with a listing or page prominently displayed. Sponsorships of a chapter, book, or the entire series are available.
“Thanks in advance for your support!
— Dr. Harvey Oshman”