Monday, September 19, 2011

Bound For Glory

Well we got fiery fingers, Lord
And we got fiery hands
Gonna get up in heaven
And play in that fiery band……………….

Just as long as I'm in this world
I am the light of this world
Just as long as I'm in this world
I am the light of this world………………..

I called Jorma this passed Friday night, right before he went on stage to tell him that our dear friend Don Ruben had passed this earth. As I cried thru the news…Jorma new why I was calling. “Please play a song for Donnie tonight. I think he’ll hear it,” I said., “We all know  that Death Don’t Have No Mercy….please play something that speaks of Donnie, “ I added. Jorma said….I’ll sing him I Am The Light Of This World.” We both were quiet. Our hearts were heavy.

Donnie truly was the light of this world. As his close friend and one of his Rabbi’s....said, "Donnie was a righteous man and as a lawyer who worked for civil rights and all things righteous, he had such disdain for scoundrels." There was no place in his world or this world for scoundrels in the legal profession. I know what you thinking…..sounds like a joke. It wasn’t for Donnie. In fact with as many friends as I have, 30% of my friends are righteous attorney’s. I am happy to say they do exist despite what seems to be the norm.

My friend Donnie fought for equality and for your rights and he was legend. When he practiced, he never lost a case. As with any situation when battling the legal system, things don’t always go the way of  righteousness. I found myself in a situation a few years ago when the first  person I could think to call was Don. The story is too long to tell really and sometimes when I do tell it I feel my blood boil…but that is not productive as that lies in the past now. It was several years ago now that I encountered a situation with a Dr. . This was one of my daughter Israel’s  Dr.’s. Not a regular but an allergist whom I had to seek out because she was breaking out in hives and no one knew why. Long story short…before the examination ever got under way, the Dr. inquired as to why I named my daughter Israel. Knowing the reason was to deep at that moment and certainly not why I was there, I simply said, “I always liked the name.”. He proceeded to say, “Let’s hope Israel does not live up to her name....struggles with God and all.” I have to tell you, I wasn’t sure whether I should leap over the examination table and clean his clock or run screaming or worse, weep for his ignorance. I chose the unexpected. I said nothing. I waited about 20 minutes  and then when the allergy test was over (which was awful by the way) , I gave my daughter a lollipop to distract her and then gave him  a piece of my mind...and I kept it clean. I am not proud of the fact that I curse like a sailor or a good day…this was not that day. My job is to protect my daughter and to be her champion when needed but it is also to  honor my faith and to speak intelligently about what I know when it comes to being Jewish. 

After an immediate complaint was filed with the medical facility and putting them all on notice that this was not over, I left the building, got in my car and called Donnie.  After some initial comments (and I won't repeat what we both thought about this Dr.) he suggested that I write a letter of complaint to the Ohio State Medical Board.  He also suggested contacting the ADL.  This Dr.'s office falls under the public accommodation section of the civil rights act and so a complaint to the Ohio Civil Rights Commission would be in order.

Several months  ensued and politics being what they are, this Dr., and I believe for Director of the facility, never really acknowledge what he said and how damaging it was. And despite Don’s great counsel we (Don, myself and my Rabbi who was also hugely helpful and supportive) all thought it important that we not focus on the problem but find a solution to this.

We proposed  some sort of sensitivity training for this facilities staff and more specifically , for this Dr.

That’s pretty much the end of that story…..but for me, Don rose to the occasion as my friend and as a professional. He helped me champion for Israel…my daughter. And the lessons I learned from him about being righteous in my life will forever stay with me. Countless people out there that knew Don Ruben will say the same thing…….we say….he is a mensch.  And as Jorma wrote in his latest blog about Don, The things of this world will be inevitably consigned to the dustbin of history. They will just be stories. The true test of one’s ‘legacy’ will be if your friends and family can always see you as a mensch when they call up your image.

When the procession of cars pulled into the cemetery having had a full police motorcycle escort, one of the policemen got off his bike and saluted the hertz that was carrying Donnie and stayed at attention as the rest of us followed. As the casket was lowered into the grave and Don’s family and friends helped to shovel dirt , there was a faint whistle of train in the distance as the last shovel of earth was laid on Donnie……his train is bound for glory.

I will miss him…………………

Vanessa Lillian


  1. Nessa
    I did not know your friend Don, but seeing his picture here, ironically taken in front of the "Whole Body" sign, I believe what you say about him
    That he was righteous and good.
    Maybe it is just the glow from within, but what my eyes see is
    A very handsome man!
    Same thing, yes?

    Peace to you, and everyone who has lost this dear friend.
    lady Robin

  2. V--Like Lady Robin I did not know Don (though his face feels so warm and familiar--maybe we did cross paths once?) but I trust your judgment wholly and know you only keep good and positive company, for you own sake and especially for Izze's...I know that Don meant a lot to you and your family and the story you shared above is really inspiring. What a noble thing you both did setting straight the ignorance of someone who should have been there to help you, yet rather forced his own ignorant thoughts into your life without is a sad reality but I'm glad to know people like Don exist and are willing to fight for equality and the rights we all deserve as humans. Thank you for sharing this story. All my thoughts are with you and family. love you--M