Jacob Hertzman was unlike any other boy. Although doctors could clinically describe his condition, no one could give it a name, other than “The Jacob Syndrome”. But, hearing his parents David and Jill tell it, Jacob was one of a kind in so many meaningful ways.
“No one ever had to tell Jacob what to do”, recounts David. “He would just walk in, say I’m Jacob, and take over. He was just so outgoing.”
Jill remembers, “Despite obstacles that he couldn’t control, Jacob was a boy who just said yes to life. He was extraordinarily passionate, adventurous and independent.”
And he never missed a chance to go to Temple. He embraced Judaism fully, and loved Holy Blossom. Attending services whenever he could, he’d sing in his loud voice, sometimes joining the Torah procession or “helping” the Rabbi on the bimah, when the mood struck him.
On one of these occasions, David remembered being taken up the tower with his class as a special treat, many years ago. So he and Jacob tried the door and it was open. The space was dark, dank and in disuse, strewn with old cartons full of Temple records. Walls were covered with graffiti, the handwritten names of children from years past. But a faint light emanated from above and the two climbed the rickety old staircase to the top.
The windows were now grimy and cracked. But Jacob didn’t care. He jumped up and down, exclaiming “You can see everything from here” as he gazed out over the city. “This must be what looking down from Heaven is like!” David and Jacob added their names to the wall. And whenever he could, Jacob would spend time in the tower. It became his special, secret space within Temple.
That memory, and Jacob’s positive, forward-looking nature, is what inspired David to rebuild the Tower.
“In Rabbi Eisendrath’s original vision, the tower was always meant to serve as a beacon, a positive light that would lead the way”, says David. “That was very much Jacob’s spirit. I wanted to unlock the tower for good, and have it serve as a symbol, leading the way for our Renewal Project.”
Dedicated on Shabbat Shuvah this past September, Jacob’s Tower has been completely rebuilt. A staircase that was once rickety, is now sturdy and beautiful. Lighting has been carefully chosen to accentuate the peaceful, contemplative nature of the space. The windows are new. And the walls are still adorned with the handwritten names of so many of our Temple’s children.
David’s hope is that every class, and every member who can, visits the tower and feels its transformative power. “It’s simple”, says David, “as Jacob might say… Just come up here. See what I see.”