David Rakoff, who died yesterday at age 47 after battling cancer, was a beloved writer, storyteller, actor, and all-around mensch. To know him even a little was to love him. He was generous with his time, creative, funny, intellectually curious, and gracious.
As a contributor to Tablet and its predecessor, Nextbook.org, David wrote pieces that showcased the scope of his interests and the depths of his imagination. Of course, he did that elsewhere too—notably in three collections of essays and for the radio program This American Life. For us, David kept a phenomenally incisive and eloquent blog about going to nearly every screening in a two-week Woody Allen film festival. He wrote movingly about the practice of slichot, the prayers of penance recited in the weeks before the High Holidays. And, he examined the life and work of Felix Salten, a Viennese Jewish literary critic in the early 20th century who dabbled in disparate literary forms, from fairy tales to soft porn. If you are looking for articulate prose and poignant, fresh insights—any of those examples will do.
Ever curious about the people around him, David made nearly everyone feel that he genuinely cared about them. I believe this was because, in fact, he genuinely did, regardless of whether the relationship was close or distant. And I believe too that that kind of caring and curiosity helped define his work and is, furthermore, the mark of the rare, big heart—open and questioning, giving and warm. May his memory be for a blessing.