San Diego - BELphotos
Rabbi Aaron Gottesman

Rabbi Aaron Gottesman

When I resided in San Diego, I met the San Diego Fire-Rescue Chaplain, Rabbi Aaron Gottesman. Once we established who we both knew in Brooklyn, our home town, we became fast friends. Often meeting at the scene of one of the many fires in San Diego. He was there representing his employer, God; and I representing mine.

He was without question one of the coolest friends I had in San Diego. He and I liked to philosophize about any topic that popped into our mortal heads. Sometimes I would think that we were in competition for The Philosopher's Annual Award.

Anyone listening on the sidelines, would think that Arron had met God, and I wrote War & Peace. I did press him many times about meeting God. Although he never did quite admit to meeting God, he said that was on his bucket-list and since God could theoretically assume any shape he wished, he may have already met him. I freely admitted that I wrote War & Peace in 1869 when I was reincarnated as Leo Tolstoy. We always had a good laugh when these topics came up.

I am sure that Arron has fulfilled his bucket-list item of meeting God. I was deeply saddened when he passed away on April 9, 2005. I lost a good friend, his family lost a great husband and father. I am reminded of this loss every April. Below is the official obituary as published by the New York Times.

Rabbi Aaron Gottesman, 63, born in Brooklyn on September 27, 1941, died April 5 in San Diego, his home for the last several decades. Son of Rabbi Harold Zvi and Hadassah. He attended Eitz Chaim, Brooklyn Talmud Academy, and graduated from St. John's in Puerto Rico. He attended YU, JTS, and a got a BA from NYU. He was an NYC caseworker, volunteer firefighter and photographer in Yorktown Heights and worked for NYPD and FDNY in the 1960's. He was often seen at fires taking photos for NY newspapers, with his German shepherd, Sparky, by his side. In San Diego, he was a chaplain for the SDPD, SDFD, and hospitals, Burn Institute, FBI, state and federal prisons, SD Heart Association, and SD Eye Bank, SD Mayor proclaimed August 4, 2003, to be Rabbi Aaron Gottesman Day. He was the 2004 Man of the Year in SoCal's St. Patrick's Day Parade. He was chaplain for SD Chapters of Retired NYPD and FDNY. He was buried with full honors from the SDFD and SDPD. He is survived by his wife of 36 years, Elaine; daughters, Judith, Ziva and his beloved dog Tovah, brothers Uriel and Meyer. Donations may be sent to the Rabbi Aaron Gottesman Fund at SD Firefighters Federal Credit Union, 10509 San Diego Mission Road, Suite A, San Diego, CA 92108. Funds will go to the Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind and the San Diego Zoo's Australasian Exhibit.

San Diego FireRescueChaplainFirefightersPolice