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When Rabbi Kelemer was the Rabbi of the Young Israel of Brookline, a congregant was assisting the rabbi to prepare a body for burial. They finished the tahara at 1:00 AM and the congregant asked Rabbi Kelemer what was seemingly a rhetorical question: would he be heading home from the funeral parlor? The Rabbi replied that not just yet. He had a received a phone call from a distressed mother in New York who informed him that she feared that her son Robby, who was a college student in Boston, was out with friends drinking in a bar. And whereas there were plenty of arguments regarding the foolishness of such an activity, (not to mention that it was hard on the liver), in Robby’s case it was particularly hazardous as he was a diabetic and it could trigger a hypoglycemic attack.

Robby’s Mom did not know what to do in the face of an impending medical emergency. In the end she called Rabbi Kelemer even though neither she nor her son were acquainted with him. The Rabbi accepted the mission to hunt for Robby, just as he consented to any chessed activity, requested or self-imposed.


Thus, at 1:00 in the morning, Rabbi Kelemer – looking nothing like a college student or bar attendee of any shape or form – began to reconnoiter the bars of Boston, looking for someone that he knew nothing more about him than his name.


There was Silvertone Bar & Grill, Boston Sail Loft, Five Horses tavern, Bleacher Bar, Porters Bar & Grill, Corner Tavern, The Black Rose, Bell in Hand Tavern the list was interminable. Boston has a significant Irish-American population and it is the college capital of America.


It would take a team of detectives five nights to comb every bar in the city. And there was Rabbi Sherlock Kelemer, casing the beer joints, temples of the spirit of the agave, total dives, rathskellers, pubs, taverns, saloons, corners, roadhouses, watering holes, spots and drinking establishments of Boston.


It is hard to imagine another rabbinic figure undertaking such a mission and even harder to imagine anyone who would not be dissuaded by the enormity of the task.

If Not Higher

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