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Of all the responsibilities I have as JPFO’s Rabbinic Director, the most challenging is providing spiritual guidance to my colleagues on the JPFO team. Of all the times I have needed to do so, this is undoubtedly the most difficult, as together we face the death of our Research Director and friend, Kirby Ferris.
Kirby was passionate about everything he did. He believed strongly in JPFO’s message of freedom and liberty and was unrelenting in advocating a moral stance in favor of self-defense and against “gun control.” Kirby had a fire about him: when he worked on a project, he would invest himself intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually in every aspect of every task. There were times when we would work on an article and would argue vigorously over its content, the result always being an end product better than either of us could have produced alone.
Kirby had a beautiful, pure faith that never wavered. He had been sick for some time, but he didn’t tell any of us about it. Rather, he faced his illness with courage and asked G-d to help him. And He did. When Kirby refused further medical treatment some 15 months ago, his doctors told him that his decision would shorten his lifespan, already only measured in a single-digit number of weeks. But Kirby was steadfast, insisting that his life was in G-d’s hands and that only G-d would decide how much time he had left. He then chose to spend his remaining time living without the side effects of aggressive medical treatment that at best might give him some extra weeks. And Kirby was right; despite his doctors’ continued surprise, Kirby persevered for ten times as many weeks as they predicted, fueled only by his faith in the A-lmighty.
Kirby was last strong enough to have a fully coherent conversation with me about a week ago. It was the first time I heard him cry, and while he maintained his courage and faith, I thought that I heard a hint of fear in him. I assured Kirby that no matter what happened, G-d would care for him and that He alone knows what is best. Kirby took that message to heart and calmly went on to face the inevitable.
Working with Kirby was like stirring a boiling pot; he bubbled with enthusiastic ideas, coming up with ten creative suggestions daily. Even after discarding the nine we analyzed as unworkable, he still brought ten times more creative new ideas to the table than I did. As we sent article revisions back and forth for editorial comment prior to publication, Kirby always goaded me to be more daring, often emphasizing his points by relating a conversation or experience he had once had with JPFO’s late founder, Aaron Zelman. Kirby’s faith guided his work. Sometimes, at the end of a long discussion, Kirby would say, “I’ll pray on this and get back to you, Rabbi.”
Kirby was deeply appreciative of and respectful of the Jewish tradition. When I went to Israel a few months ago, I offered to bring back souvenirs for everyone at JPFO. Kirby asked me to get him a Hebrew Bible. While I could have bought one at my local Jewish bookstore, Kirby wanted one from Israel, and part of the value of that Bible for him was that I had personally brought it back for him. He couldn’t read Hebrew, but he asked me to bookmark Psalm 23 for him. (“The L-rd is my shepherd ...”) I also gave him a recording of me reading the words of the Psalm, and he would stare at the indiscernible Hebrew text, listen to my unintelligible Hebrew reading, and meditate and pray. I did not know until recently that Kirby listened to those words as he himself stared at the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Yet, true to the Psalm, Kirby feared no evil, for he knew that G-d was with him.
I am privileged to have known and worked closely with Kirby Ferris. He brightened my days with his excitable disposition and strengthened my commitment to Judaism and the Jewish People with his faith. He opened my eyes to the depth of love among Christians for the Judeo-Christian tradition on which our country is based. He deepened my patriotism and my love for both G-d and country. He was my colleague; he was a spiritual co-traveller; he was a Righteous Gentile; he was my friend.
May G-d bless him.
Blessings and Shalom,
Rabbi Dovid Bendory
Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership
Rabbi Bendory is an NRA Certified Firearms Instructor.
The Rabbi's Archive page.
Visit our archive of Kirby's writings and honor his memory by reading his prodigious work.
Read JPFO's webmaster's tribute to Kirby
© Copyright Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership 2012.