My final posting with the Canadian Forces brought my family to Ottawa; continuing a part-time education dotted with colleges and universities across Canada brought me to the Psychology program at Carleton University. Seeking a course to fill a requirement and a particular time-slot, I ended up in Rabbi Bulka’s class. Each week at home I discussed the content, delivery, and professor with my husband, Paul. He joined me on my next course taught by Rabbi Bulka. In the first class of each semester Rabbi Bulka asked why students chose his class, my husband said, “date night”.
During our second course with Rabbi Bulka, Paul was diagnosed with cancer. Rabbi Bulka approached Paul and asked if all was well, he had noticed the changes treatment brought. When Paul couldn’t attend class, Rabbi Bulka asked after him, when Paul was in the hospital, Rabbi Bulka visited him. We didn’t finish the course due to hospitalizations; it’s the only “Incomplete” on my transcript. When Paul passed away, I received an incredibly empathetic and kind note from Rabbi Bulka, his words gave strength and grace. His care, compassion, and faith were an inspiration and affected my own interactions with those around me. Rabbi Bulka changed me, a mature student. How much more than academics did he give to his young students?
Along the way, I decided a Psychology degree wasn’t the end for me. I have continued pecking away, one course each term. It will be another few years before I get there, but I’ve added degrees in Religion and Judaism to my goals. What will I do with these degrees? I will have learned in achieving them. In teaching me about his religion, Rabbi Bulka as a professor, as a human being, and as a Rabbi, taught me about my own religion and about myself.
I learned the beautiful consolation of a Jewish “saying” to the bereaved from Rabbi Bulka when it mattered so much for me to learn it. To the family and friends of Rabbi Bulka I sincerely say, “May his memory be a blessing.” Rabbi Bulka’s life was a blessing, remembering him is a blessing we can choose with purpose.
It is an honour to remember him,
Gwenn Berard Beaupré