Eric Ray Sofer License Plate

Dr. Rabbi Eric F. L. Ray

Artist- Scribe/Sofer – Scholar – Teacher – Renaissance Man
August 22, 1926 – July 8 2005
12 Elul 5686 – 1 Tammuz 5765

Parshat Re’eh – The Ray Name Connection

We have timed the launch of this website in honor of our beloved teacher Dr. Eric Ray, z”l, to the week during which parshat Re’eh (Deuteronomy 11:26 – 16:17) is read from the Torah, and to celebrate what would have been his 90th birthday.  And we offer this tribute as a token of our gratitude and affection for our friend and teacher Lali Ray and her beautiful family.

The story of the connection between Re’eh and the Ray family name was one Dr. Ray enjoyed telling. When his grandfather Jacob Effenberger, a pioneering hairdresser, emigrated to England from France (where he was known as Jean Francis) the week he visited the synagogue for the first time in his new country, he was urged to take on a proper English name.  And so he adopted the name of that week’s Torah portion as his surname and Jean became Eugene.

There is, of course is another, less romantic theory to explain how the family name changed to Ray. In England, the surname Ray and its variant spellings was one adopted by Jewish émigrés (see http://conservativetendency.blogspot.com/2012/03/english-jewish-surnames-revisited.html). For a hairdresser, the name Ray was a good one for Eugene’s salon. It was short and could be greatly enlarged on a sign promoting his business (Re’eh = See!)

Incidentally, Effenberger was not the family’s original name in Budapest.  When members of the Gemperele family emigrated to Germany they were called “Effenbergers” a name given to people who came from Hungary.

This website in honor of Dr Rabbi Eric F L Ray will evolve and grow as material is added by us and others, in the form of tributes and remembrances, a gallery of his work, and articles by and about him.

For now, please enjoy the below video of our teacher in action.  And in the section entitled “A Life Well Lived,” a eulogy delivered at Dr Ray’s funeral by our dear friend and colleague Rabbi and Sofer Michael Plotnick Tayvah z”l, and an article “Artist Forger, Soldier Spy” written for the former National Jewish Monthly by Eric Rozenman, and reprinted with permission of Bnai Brith International.  And we are fortunate that Dr Ray’s Sofer: The Story of a Torah Scroll, first published by Torah Aura in 1986, is still in print!

Zecher Tzadik l’vrachah. The memory of a righteous one is blessing.

Rabbi Simcha Prombaum, La Crosse, Wisconsin

Rabbi Kevin Hale, Leeds, Massachusetts