Rabbi Myer Kripke, z”l
I grew up in a family where my father was — and still is — very connected to the Jewish community of Omaha.
While most kids had social connections from their places of worship and school activities that established community, me and my brother and sister had some of that, but it was fractured by the fact that we had a very 1970s, nomadic childhood.
We took the bus to and from Omaha from Lincoln — where we lived with our mom — to visit our dad in Omaha. We did this pretty much 10 years straight for every weekend of our childhood, from around 1970/1971 (when they got divorced) to 1981 (when we moved to Omaha). Continental Trailways on Saturday mornings and Greyhound on Sunday afternoons.
So that cut into a lot of time when I think we would have been a bit more connected to our community in Lincoln. And made us weirdly constant and familiar visitors to Omaha, but not necessarily tied and connected….
But also it put a very focused emphasis on our dad’s life in those intense two days every week that we spent with him. He would pick us up from the Continental Trailways bus station in Omaha and we would go to Bishop’s Cafeteria, 1414 Douglas, for breakfast. Then we’d spend the day with him at his office. And back to Lincoln on Sunday after the 3:00pm movie I always seemed to watch. Hopalong Cassidy was a consistent favorite.
I always knew we were Jewish, but in Lincoln especially it wasn’t something we talked about a lot. Like having divorced parents. It was the 1970s when this type of thing wasn’t as common. We weren’t observant but I definitely knew — especially when it came to our dad’s life in Omaha — that there was a bubble of Jewish community in Omaha that we were tangentially a part of.
One of the things I have always experienced with my dad was what we jokingly refer to as Jewish Geography — my dad would tell stories about some of the people in the Jewish community in Omaha that his parents knew and socialized with, or that he grew up and went to high school with, or knew from living in Omaha. Maybe it’s the fledging librarian and genealogist in me, but I was always very interested in hearing the stories about all the people, imagining the glamorous lives of my grandparents. My Grandpa Irv had these shiny suits in some of the pictures we had of him, which I thought were super cool.
There was just this constant influx of names and stories of people from the community. And going to Bishop’s we would meet a lot of these characters. During high school after we had moved to Omaha, I would get a ride from my dad every morning and continue the Bishop’s breakfast tradition, sitting with my dad and his friends who I remember told terrible jokes and didn’t seem to mind having a high school kid in their midst.
I ended up knowing the parents of some of the Jewish kids in Omaha — and not really the kids themselves. It was odd, but it was history and Omaha and our dad and just sort of how things were.
So in talking with my dad recently he told me that he had a great honor. I could hear in his voice how touched he was. He had been asked to be one of the pallbearers who carried Rabbi Kripke’s casket, for his funeral.
Rabbi Kripke conducted my dad’s bar mitzvah, and was the rabbi at the synagogue his family went to, Beth El, in Omaha. Over the years my dad would often refer to Rabbi Kripke as a huge influence in his life. And when my Grandma Pearl went into The Rose Blumkin Jewish Home, my dad would always point out Rabbi Kripke (as well as many other Jewish Geography folks who were there and who I had heard stories about) with reverence.
To spend more time with Grandma Pearl my dad volunteered at the Saturday services, assisting in conducting them. Sometimes Rabbi Kripke led but towards the end I just remember the Rabbi being there, enjoying the services. My dad still does this volunteering, and I know it means a lot to him — even though Grandma died.
So I have this weird reverence — and semi-skewed connection — to the Jewish community that is essentially my father’s (and grandparents). Names and some faces are very familiar to me, like Maury Katzman.
My dad would always talk of these people, after they passed, and say, “of blessed memory.” Like he would tell a great story about his father, and say, “my father, of blessed memory.” I always loved that, how there was a small moment of time where there was remembrance of this person within the conversation.
There was another article in addition to an official obituary about Rabbi Kripke in the New York Times recently that triggered me writing this post (and adding the cite to Wikipedia). I think the article on Rabbi Kripke was due to Warren Buffett’s annual Berkshire Hathaway meeting in Omaha that just happened. Rabbi Kripke died this year at age 100.
I have been editing Wikipedia now for a while. I do it to relax and really enjoy the quick publish factor — as well as connecting to my former profession as a word processor for 15 years. Very satisfying.
So in homage to Rabbi Kripke I created a Wikipedia article about him. In his blessed memory.
Rabbi’s wife, Dorothy, as an author of Jewish books, already had her own page, but as usual it needed citation and format cleanup. While creating the Rabbi’s page, I did that. But I hope to add more to her page at some point.
But really, Rabbi Kripke needed his own page, in honor of his accomplishments and years of service to the Jewish community in Omaha. I was so glad — and honored in my own way — to do that.
I have been meaning to mention I did this to my dad when we talk next. I think it continues the tradition “of blessed memory” — and hopefully commemorates a small part of the Omaha Jewish community that yeah I guess I sort of am a part of. At least a little bit.