Eulogy for Dr. Diane Averbach King
Dr. Saul P. Wachs
Others (will) speak of Diane as a family leader and a member of the synagogue community. I have been asked to try to summarize the impact of Diane’s life as a colleague, a consummate professional and a leader in the Jewish Education community.
Diane originally saw her professional life in the sciences but Dr. William Lackritz, one of the first full time professional educators of a conservative congregation in our community, recruited her to teach and to attend Gratz college. This led her to Dropsie college and a doctorate with a specialization in Jewish history.
I had met her on occasion at conferences but really got to know her starting in 1975 when I was invited by Dr. Daniel Isaacman to serve as academic dean and to head the education department at Gratz. Diane and I worked closely with Dr. Uziel Adini, Rabbi Howard Bogot, Dr. Nathaniel Entin, Dr. Marsha Edelman and others in developing a Master of Arts and later, a doctoral program in Jewish Education. Diane was a clinical professor and educational consultant. She probably provided more direct help to teachers in Jewish schools during her work as a consultant than anyone else in the community.
She was interested in ideas but had an uncanny feel for what is practical. Her classes at Gratz were uniformly successful and her workshops were enthusiastically received. But there was another aspect of Diane that sticks in my memory. She was a compassionate individual. This was always in evidence when we conducted intake interviews where we decided whether or not to admit someone to the Master of Arts or Doctoral programs in Jewish Education. Consistently, Diane would argue to admit the candidate even when there were obvious lacunae in background, knowledge or experience. I do not ever remember her engaging in leshon hara-derogatory speech about another person. This was one manifestation of her innate dignity. She argued cogently but was also a very good listener, always respectful and open to having her mind changed. Diane wrote well, and her curricular units sometimes written with Dr. Nathanial Entin or “Nat’ as we called him, were polished and reflected a keen understanding of the needs of teacher and pupil. Her history of Jewish Education in Philadelphia is an important resource. She was also an invaluable keeper of institutional memory for Gratz.
Diane’s accomplishments were recognized beyond our community when she received the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Jewish Educators Assembly and was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Pedagogy by the Jewish Theological Seminary.
There was a deep sense of integrity that informed her character. Honesty, frankness, decency and compassion, empathy, and openness were hallmarks of her personality. She sometimes mentioned her mother of blessed memory as an important model for the values she exemplified throughout her life.
She loved Gratz College and kept its welfare close to the heart. Diane and I cooperated in setting up funds to enable students to study in Israel. She loved the Germantown Jewish Centre and treasured its deep commitment to quality Jewish education.
No eulogy about her life would be complete without mentioning Lee. Diane, more than once, told me that Lee had been a source of unlagging support for her professional growth. I will never forget his beaming face when we celebrated her being awarded the Doctoral degree.
Dear family, min ha-shamayim tenuhamu-may you be comforted from heaven. Please know that her pride in children and grandchildren was expressed, deeply, enthusiastically and frequently. There are many crowns that can be placed on the head of this distinguished and honorable colleague. But keter shem tov-the crown of a good name is the highest, and those who knew her know that she earned that crown every day of her life.
The mention of her name at Gratz College will evoke uniformly positive, warm and meaningful memories. We at Gratz will always associate her memory with a love of the Jewish
people, high standards, an a profound belief in the power of education or torah- to renew the quality of life in the Jewish community and beyond.
Those of us who had the privilege of working or studying with her will miss her sorely. Yehi zikhrah barukh-may her memory continue to be a blessing.
Diane King Z”L
by Uzi Adini
Diane loved my Gematria. Every time we met she used to ask me, “Uzi, any new Gematria?” Since she loved my Gematria so much, and I am in Israel unable to accompany Diane in her final journey on earth, here is my final Gematria for our beloved Diane.
Before I go on, some of you might wonder what Gematria is. Gematria is the numerical values of the Hebrew Alpha-Bet, used to interpret sacred writings, predict future, attribute meaning to names, using Kabbalistic interpretations – all based on the numerical values of the Hebrew letters. Our rabbis and Bible interpreters used it to analyze and interpret sacred expressions in the Bible. They went on to even predict someone’s future based on his or her Hebrew name. All based on Gematria. We don’t have our Medieval Rabbis or modern Kabbalists around, so I thought to use Gematria to help send Diane on her final journey, and an incredible Gematria appeared as soon as I thought of her Hebrew name. I know Diane is already smiling right now.
The Gematria system is pretty simple: Aleph is 1, Bet is 2, Yod is 10, and so on. Then comes the tricky part – find the equivalents and use Gematria.
Here is what I discovered when thinking of Diane’s Hebrew name Dina. Dina spells Dalet - 4, Yod - 10, Nun - 50, and Heh - 5. Add it all up, and you get 69. Now comes the amazing Gematria associated with Diane’s Hebrew name Dina, which sheds an incredible light on her. Dina equals “Samech Tet”, and Samech Tet abbreviation in Hebrew stood, for generations, for SIMAN TOV, meaning: a good sign, a good fortune. Throughout many generations people added the letters Samech Tet to their name in order to add good fortune to them and to their families. Diane did not have to add anything – her very name’s Gematria was just that – good sign, good fortune. If you attend a Jewish wedding, you probably are familiar with what we send the new couple on their new journey together – we sing for them “Siman Tov and Mazal Tov” – we send the new couple wishing them the best fortune given to mankind. Diane did not have to add anything to her name. Her name said it all. She was born with the send-off sign of good fortune and this Gematria accompanied her all her life. Diane was positive, always ready to give it all for her true friends, always trusted by all, and if you were troubled with anything, personal as well as professional, I always knew that a conversation with my terrific friend Diane will change things in the positive way. After each conversation with this incredible human being I felt more reassured. Our friendship gave me more strength. I was lucky to have Diane as my friend for the past fifty years.
I now say to Diane: SIMAN TOV. Have a good and fortunate journey. I know you are smiling up there to hear my Gematria. This is to you, Diane. Yehi Zichrah Baruch.
The family has requested that contributions in her memory may be made to Dr. Diane A. and Leon King Fund for Student Study in Israel, C/O Gratz College or Diane A. King Scholarship Fund for Giborim, C/O Gratz College.