With the petirah this past Elul of Rabbi Joseph Karasick, we at the Orthodox Union lost a giant and I personally lost a mentor, friend, colleague, cheerleader, critic and an incredible source of inspiration. “Rabbi K” was one of a kind. He was a walking history book of American Jewish life. He had a story for every occasion and could delight an audience with his Torah, wisdom, erudition and charm. I loved to listen to him speak, give a Torah shiur or participate in a panel discussion.
I first met Rabbi K at an OU weekend convention. He made it his mission to persuade me to become involved in the OU. After spending many hours with him, at the conclusion of the weekend, I couldn’t wait to join. Over time, my involvement with the organization increased, progressing from board member to vice president to chairman of assorted committees, and eventually to president. Rabbi K was with me every step of the way. There is a very small, elite club of former OU presidents; we all understand the great privilege it is to serve as president of one the most significant Torah organizations in the world. Rabbi K taught me to thank Hashem every day for the zechut to serve in that position. “Cherish every minute. Enjoy it. It will be the best days of your life,” he used to say. He was right.
One of the main reasons I enjoyed visiting Florida in the winter was to spend time with Rabbi K. I never let him know I was coming; rather, I would go to the shul where he was davening, wait until the 8 AM minyan was over and surprise him. I would make a deal with him: I would tell him the latest OU news and he would provide me with life lessons he acquired as an influential lay leader in the Jewish communal world during 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s.
Up until the end of this life, Rabbi K was active in the OU. When he could not participate in board meetings in person, he would call in. He was always the first to ask questions of the presenters.
He lived the OU and loved the OU. Rabbi K, the OU will miss you.
Stephen Savitsky is a former president of the OU.
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Memories of “Joe” by Julius Berman