Thank you Shaindel for giving me the privilege today to speak today about Rabbi Simes, someone who I was proud to call a good friend.
I met Rabbi Simes when he was the teacher for my young children at Hillel Academy. He was not just any teacher but without a doubt he was their favourite teacher. My kids loved his classes. They were enthusiastic about learning. He extended their jewish education on those memorable times that he would invite the entire class to his home to celebrate holidays with his family. His special personality made Jewish education fun and engaging.
As we became friends, I saw the special qualities that made my kids love him as a teacher. I loved his childlike awe that emerged when i would share my passion of doing magic tricks with him and his children. It was joy to entertain him.
He continued to love watching magic tricks even as his situation deteriorated after the accident.
When he could no longer speak, a friend and I helped him communicate using computerized eye scanning technology developed by an Israeli living with ALS. He communicated by focusing his eyes to stare at words or letters on a screen. It was very difficult but he persisted.
One day when we were able to get the on screen keyboard working, his first message was to slowly use his eyes to type E A R. I asked him if his ear hurt and it turned out that his ear was being crushed by his wheelchair headrest. Once we straightened out his ear, Shaindel came in the room and he slowly typed out L O V E. Those short messages brought him joy to be able to communicate.
On the computer screen that we created, I added a very corny joke that my father used to tell us as kids. On one button on the screen I put the joke, why was the baby strawberry crying? And on another button, I put the punchline, because his mother and father were in a jam. Rabbi Simes loved the joke and would activate those buttons with his eyes whenever we were working on the system or whenever someone came it room. At times it was difficult for him to move his eyes around the screen, which was very frustrating for him. But it remained a mystery that no matter where on the screen the joke was that day, he was always managed to reach it and tell the joke. And it always brought a smile to his face that reminded me of that childlike awe. Through all of his challenges, he never lost that special spirit that made him such a great teacher and friend.