Phil Edelman was one of the most vibrant older people I have had the privilege of knowing. He set a standard of conduct that was inspirational to us all.
One of the characteristics he modeled was aging gracefully with an energy and lightness of step that belied his age.
From the moment I first met him I could not fathom how this gentle man could have served his country in the Air Force as a career. How could such a sweet man have been an MP in the Air Force, keeping soldiers in line?
More significantly, he modeled the best of Judaism: celebrating family, friends and community in everything he did.
He openly acknowledged that he never stopped learning. He never imposed his position as a wise elder on anyone. He never complained about conditions he may not have cared for, whether in how activities were conducted or in terms of confronting increasing health challenges particularly as he so gracefully entered his nineties.
When I think of the uniqueness of CBI as consisting of members that minimize Lashon HaRa, “hurtful talk” and minimal “kvetching”, “complaining” about hard times and conditions, Phil was at the top in that kind of role modeling. He only kvelled; he “rejoiced” in his family, and particularly in the achievements of his grandchildren. In fact what was remarkable about this man was that he kvelled about everything. He loved to share the latest activity in which he was involved, the programs he had attended and the places he had been. He always had a story to share and something or someone in which to delight.
He loved his community, CBI, and it was my privilege to watch him lead the Shabbat evening Kiddush at the service and to have him sit by my side at Shabbat Seder.
I cannot over-emphasize how his positive attitude about life uplifted me in my own work and dedication to bring out such positive outlooks in all the activity in which I have been involved.
He also inspired me with his dedication to doing whatever his doctors wanted of him to preserve his health and to keep active to the best of his abilities. As a result, his loss has been a shock; although he had struggled with multiple obstacles to his health in the last months, knowing how disciplined he was in following doctors’ instructions, I assumed he would come through these challenges with his usual energy and vibrancy and remain with us for the foreseeable future.
Now, I realize how effectively he lived life his own way and taught us to do so as well, being honest to ourselves and responsible to doing our best to vouchsafe our wellbeing and that of our dear ones.
What Phil also taught was the application and value of the rabbinic principle to do Teshuva, make amends, and keep your balances, one day before you die. The sages then asked: how is that possible, since one does not know the day of their death? The answer: therefore, do Teshuva every day.
That is how Phil lived…learning each day and keeping current on all facets of life to his last moments.
His legacy is of one who learned how to adapt to life’s changing conditions, throughout his life, and to do so cheerfully and eagerly…whether learning from his father to do his best to keep Kosher in the Air Force, where it was almost impossible to do so, or to adapt to changes in life as he aged. He did everything cheerfully and in so doing filled our lives with light and joy.
Each of us that knew him are now left with a lifetime of stories he shared and with a challenge to honor him by reexamining our own lives and reflect on how we can continue to learn and grow and to kvell about life’s blessings as long as we live.
CBI has lost a gentle and powerful role model. Our country has lost an inspiring leader who modeled character and exemplary behavior in the Armed Forces.
May his memory be for all of us as strength and inspiration to aspire to the best we can be as he did with his life and in so doing assure that Phil will always be with us.
Farewell to an amazing inspiration as a Jew and a unique Colonel in the U.S Air Force.