By Avrumie Kahn
In Mishlei, Shlomo HaMelech (30:30) states, “The lion is the mightiest of the beasts, who is undaunted by anyone.” This pasuk, in describing a lion’s might, only scratches the surface of the power and might possessed by my precious brother Ari, zt’l.
A number of years ago, Ari was receiving the award for the NY State Bar Association Lawyer of the Year, in part for his work with public-school kids. The award was being presented by Mr. Jay Bernstein, an expert orator and senior partner in the prestigious law firm Clifford Chance. Mr. Bernstein referred to Ari, as he called him up for his award, as “the Great Ari Kahn.” This was a resounding “aha moment” for me and everyone there, as no word could describe Ari more succinctly than the word “great.”
There is not enough paper, ink, or time to expound on the greatness of Ari Kahn. However, I’d like to point out that Ari’s greatest legacy are his four beautiful children whom he and his talented wife, Sari, raised in a house filled with chesed, Torah, and “drama-free drama.”
The Great Ari Kahn had a beautiful and brilliant mind. He was valedictorian and Yeshiva University Scholar, and he spent a year learning in Yeshivas Sha’alavim in Eretz Yisrael. The Great Ari Kahn took a year of deferment after undergrad to learn in Yeshivas Ner Yisroel in Baltimore before shipping up to Boston to attend the distinguished Harvard Law School.
However, the great Ari Kahn never walked around flexing his intellectual muscles. He went out of his way not to tout his brilliant mind. Dare I say, he “dumbed it down” for the rest of us. I believe my brother did that to make those with whom he was conversing feel comfortable and not intimidated by his intelligence.
The Great Ari Kahn, as Dr. David Luchins recently wrote, “was more than just a friend. He was a representative of the very best of NCSY.”
The Great Ari Kahn quickly gained legend status at Camp Sports; many of his campers and NCSYers became lifelong friends.
I’d like to share some insight into how the Great Ari Kahn would provide his sincere friendship embrace to everyone. I would be sitting with Ari, and his cellphone would ring. He’d recognize the caller and answer, “Hey, brother.” I would be sitting right there next to him thinking, “Who could he possibly be talking to? Our mother only had two boys! Inevitably the call or the conversation would always conclude with “Love you, bro.” That’s a brief insight into the Great Ari Kahn. Before you could even utter one word, Ari embraced you as a brother.
Countless friends and family will always continue to hear Ari’s heartfelt voice, simply asking his famous two words, “What’s doing?” That was all one needed to hear before all their life’s challenges and problems come flowing out, seeking the great wisdom and guidance that only Ari could provide, advice that was balanced with Torah values and practical principles.
Those who knew us are aware that Ari and I shared a room growing up. We spent countless nights talking way past our bedtimes. Even as young kids, we shared a creativity that today is demonstrated in different ways. In one of those late-night schmoozing sessions as young kids, we discussed how I wanted to remodel our bedroom, including our exterior walls, with floor to ceiling fish tanks. As only a young, but still great, Ari Kahn would do, he humored me, and without missing a beat he said, “It’ll work, but only if you paint the ceiling with glow-in-the-dark paint.” Hey, it was the 80s.
My sisters and I were blessed to have such a great older brother. The only and biggest fight I can remember that Ari and I got into was epic. It was a showdown. It lasted for hours one afternoon: Who could make the biggest cannonball? Together, we invented games that we would play for hours. One of which was a game called “Bomb.” The rules are complicated to explain, and nowadays we would have to change the name, but those times I spent together with the Great Ari Kahn playing our made-up games will be a lasting memory.
The Great Ari Kahn had an incredible lyrical talent as well. Ari and his wife, Sari, coordinated an original song and dance for their talented children to perform to enhance every simcha.
I can remember the first time Ari became my hero. I must have been six or seven years old and I was listening to Ari’s little league coach, at the time Barry Mandel, tell the commissioner Bob Grossberg, the following: “As long as I have Ilan (Barry’s son) and Ari Kahn on my team we will win the championship.” Even then, the Great Ari Kahn was perfecting the art of playing goalie while standing on the pitcher’s mound participating in little league. His preparation in playing goalie became quite handy for the Great Ari Kahn as he later helped start a hockey team at HANC where he was the goalie and captain. There he was the leader of the team, and those who knew and heard him, knew he was the most competitive and vocal person in the game.
Our growing up as roommates sharing a bedroom took a modern twist as we bought houses right across the street from one another in West Hempstead. Again, we had discussed plans, plans to build a tunnel under the street to connect our houses. And yes, I wanted our tunnel walls to be fish tanks and he wanted the ceiling to be painted in glow-in-the-dark paint.
But I can tell everyone, without a doubt, among all the Great Ari Kahn’s accomplishments, his proudest moments were when he was holding his four beautiful children. He was always so proud of all of you. The four of you are the exquisite tapestry that he, along with your mother, Sari, has weaved as the product of your Tati’s great legacy.
I know that right now, the malachim are singing in Shamayim. The avos, our forefathers, and ancestors, are dancing with unadulterated joy, the likes of which have not been seen in this world, all to welcome you to Gan Eden.
Ari, everyone here in this world can start sleeping a little easier knowing that the Great Ari Kahn is our legal counsel in the beis din shel ma’alah.
May your neshamah have an aliyah,
Love you, brother!