Can you see it? That sparkle of delight, springing from his heart, shining through his eyes, and spreading the warmth of genuine affection to ...me!
This is a picture of my dear friend, Rabbi Sidney Rackoff, taken when we met for coffee one morning a few weeks ago, at Phoenix on Lee Road in Cleveland Heights. It had been over a year since I had seen him, so we had much catching up to do.
I wrote about Sid several years ago (Click here to read the post), and wanted to write about him again, now that I have redesigned my blog and can share photo images with you. I have heard they are worth a thousand words, which saves me a whole lot of time pecking at this keyboard.
The renowned sculptor, Fred Schmidt, introduced me to Sid when I first began teaching at Max Hayes High School. Fred had invited my art students, who were also studying welding, to visit his Cleveland studio were he fabricated his monumental works of stainless steel. The kids were so excited and inspired by his sculpture, that Fred took me aside and said.
"You need to give my friend, Sid Rackoff, a call. He uses recycled scrap metal in his work, and I'm sure he would be happy to talk with your students. His technique is more affordable for the kids who would like to create art using their welding skills."
He handed me a phone number on a slip of paper.
I met with Sid and his wife at his home in Cleveland Heights the following week. They graciously showed me some of the artwork they kept in the house and, pulling an album off of a shelf, looked through photographs as we talked about the early years of his sculpting career, which he began at the age of 60.
He readily agreed to come out to the school and talk with the kids, while his wife shook her head and rolled her eyes.
"There he goes again."
Turning to him she fussed, "Now remember you aren't as young as you used to be."
Back to me she continued, "I worry about his health. He takes on too many projects."
Sid just smiled and said "I'll see you Wednesday."
He came to the school the folowing week, with his leather jacket, mask,tools, and a crate full of scrap metal. I just wanted him to talk to the kids, he immediately put them to work.
That was seven years ago.
Sid is eighty nine now, and still making sculpture in his Willoughby studio.
These open arms bid welcome to all who enter Max Hayes High School. Sid's sculptures can also be found at several other schools as well as gracing the lawns and entrances of various businesses and civic institutions around North East Ohio. One of his sculptures is a part of the permanent collection at the Butler museum in Youngstown.
Sid never sells his art. Instead, he is happy to loan his sculptures to anyone who would like to display them for other people to enjoy. The sculptures in the photo below can be seen in front of the Recovery Resources building on Chester Avenue in Cleveland.
This last picture is a very large figure of a welder on display in Niles, Ohio.
It is my favorite of all Sid's pieces, since it was welding that brought him into my life and the lives of my students.
Over the few years we have known each other, he has been an inspiration to me as well as sympathetic listener and wise couselor. I feel quite blessed to be able to call him my friend.