Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Rabbi Dr Shlomo Sprecher 1953-2017: Rabbi, Scholar, Doctor, Bibliophile and Patron of the Jewish book world

It is with a deep sense of pain and sorrow that we inform of the untimely passing of Dr Shlomo Sprecher, leaving the Jewish world with an irreplaceable void. He passed away on March 15, 2017, aged 64. No words can do justice to the endless acts of kindness that people from all walks of life have benefited from his actions. I merited to know him only the last few years of his life, perhaps by recalling a few of my experiences with him, I can convey just an idea of the man and his life.

In my role as a bookseller, Dr Sprecher would for several years, visit me in the store nearly daily, en route or on the way home from his work, where he practiced as a radiologist. His visits were unlike any other, aside from his pursuit of titles of interest to him, his love and respect for books would transform many of his visits into an act of perpetual kindness. If he chanced upon a young budding scholar in the store, he would encourage any work or studying the person may be contemplating, and offer his library and his time as assistance. Dr Sprecher had a genuine, natural ability to compliment, and his respect and encouragement would leave anyone in conversation with him with a renewed commitment to pursuing his academic or rabbinic interests.

Dr Sprecher's rare combination of excellence in the academic as well as rabbinic field, placed him in a unique position to be a positive influence and a mentor for the many people who would seek his guidance. There are individuals that I know, that continued their studies due to his influence, and many a scholar who found himself in financial troubles, found an open hand in Dr Sprecher. There are people of which I am aware, and I am certain there are many that I am unaware of, that received a monthly stipend from Dr Sprecher, all in a discreet and honorable way.

His love of books was such, that he cherished them and treated them with the utmost respect. At times, when new acquisitions arrived in the store, I would find him hauling boxes in, despite my many objections. When there was a very unfortunate sewer backup in the store several years ago, I found him nearly knee deep in water, assisting in raising the books to higher ground. No begging or pleading would talk him out of such actions, he placed his love for sefarim and insistence on helping in any way possible above all else.

Aside from the literary output of his own, in his position as an editor of the journals, Hakirah and Yeshurun, I have witnessed him spend much time and energy in assisting the various contributors. He would often delve in to a subject all new to him, in order to benefit and aid the writer in his research.

His store visits would generally be interspersed with ongoing incoming phone calls from friends and strangers alike, who would tap in to his encyclopedic medical knowledge. His advice would be often be followed by his continued interest in the patients' condition, and a genuine care, all without any monetary compensation.

For many who had an interest in books and Torah scholarships, the lectures he hosted in his home, were events looked forward to. It was a place where all were welcome, where people from all walks of life were able to feel at home. Many a lasting friendship, developed from these meetings.

The Sprecher Library was the dream of many Rabbis and scholars alike. The books were meticulously collected and well used, and encompassed all areas of Jewish interest. No book was an ornament for him, the books were made to be read and then read again. Pulling off a book from one his shelves, would often result in finding many pages of his notes falling out of the title. His books were never viewed by him as his private collection, as it was open to anyone who would be able to put it to use. During the period of his illness, when he would at times be unable to accommodate such guests, he would at times request and pay for a copy of a book that he would then give to the individual so as not to let him go away empty-handed.

No mention of Dr Sprecher would be complete without a mention of his devoted wife, and his partner in his studies. Mrs Sprecher was always supportive of his book-buying habits and when in doubt about making a purchase, she would regularly be consulted. All guests in their home, even someone stopping by just to borrow a tome, regardless of the time of day, would feel welcome and invited by her. Their marriage extended to their shared יראת שמים, combined with a respect for any type of person who crossed their path and their patronizing of scholarship.

Though Dr Shlomo Sprecher will no longer be with us, his influence will be here to stay. May his life serve as a manual and guide for the generations to come.


From Left to right, Dr Shlomo Sprecher, Prof. Hershey Eidlisz, Prof. Shnayer Leiman and Rabbi Eliezer Brodt during a visit at Mizrahi Bookstore

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