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Remembering Leonard Nimory:
A Reflection by Howard Cohen, Former Grand Aleph Godol, 84-85

Posted on 01/16/2015 @ 12:00 PM

Years ago, I was lucky enough to meet Leonard Nimoy. He was appearing at Book Expo America to promote his photography book, Shekhina, and it so happened that his publishers’ booth was just down the same aisle where I was stationed. As you would expect, it was a well-attended signing so I waited until the initial rush died down before I headed over there with the intention of getting something signed for my brother. Nimoy was very personable and we chatted. As he signed the promo material, I thanked him and told him that now we had each others’ signatures. Puzzled, he asked me to explain.

In 1984, I was the president of a youth group, the Aleph Zadik Aleph, the boys division of B’nai B’rith Youth Organization. Each year, the governing body would choose a distinguished alumnus to award and during my presidency, he had been chosen. Nimoy had been a member when he was in high school in Boston. When his “office” was notified, the word was that he was thrilled and honored and that AZA had been very important to him. Among his early acting experiences were plays his local chapter staged. It was also mentioned he would try his best to accept the award in person at our annual International Convention in August at our camp in the Pocono Mountains where he would address the convention.

The winner of the award receives a plaque recognizing the achievement and, as president that year, my signature was engraved on it. In the end, his schedule did not allow him to make the trip and I can’t say I wasn’t disappointed. How cool would it have been to introduce him after being a fan of his for most of my nineteen years. Still, who knows if he ever even saw the plaque? If it was just sent to his office and stayed in a box all these years?

After telling him this, and to my great delight, he told me how remarkable it was to meet me. He knew my signature well as the kept plaque hung at about eye level on the wall of his study near the chair where he spent time reading. In fact, he told me, he saw it almost every day and it was an award of which he was especially proud.

AZA had meant a great deal to him and to be remembered and recognized was a great honor in a very distinguished career. He then stood up, extended his hand to give me the AZA handshake, a traditional handshake with the index finger extended so that we would touch each other’s pulse, the other three fingers representing Ahava (love), Tzedakah (charity), and Achdoot (brotherhood) with the thumb symbolic of the binding belief in one G-d, and said to me, “Thank you, my brother Aleph”.

Thank you, Leonard Nimoy. You will be missed. Howard Cohen Grand Aleph Gadol 1984-85

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