Cantor Royal Rockman is remembered as a man whose knowledge of the world around him was matched by his kindness and devotion to Jewish life.
Rockman died April 23, 2019. He was 95.
He served for 36 years as cantor of the former Temple Beth Ahm — which later became Temple Ohev Shalom — in Colonia. The synagogue merged with Congregation Neve Shalom in Metuchen about 13 years ago.
“My father was always a very positive influence on my life, and I have tried to emulate many things I learned from him,” said his son Bruce, cantor at Congregation B’nai Tikvah in North Brunswick.
Royal Rockman continued to sing with family and friends long after his retirementin the late 1990’s, and passed along his passion for Jewish music to Bruce.
“We had a great relationship and we collaborated a great deal,” Bruce told NJJN. “We had the opportunity to share melodies. He was a great teacher, mentor, and cantor. He always encouraged me to be kind and forgiving — the word he would use is magnanimous — to be gentle and forever growing and caring. My mother and father will forever be an inspiration and I will always honor their good names with the work I do.”
Adam Glinn, the director of development at the Jewish Community Center of Middlesex County in Edison, grew up in the Colonia synagogue and his family was friends with the Rockmans. Rockman was one of the officiants at Glinn’s wedding.
“What was wonderful about Cantor Rockman was that whenever you were with him he gave you all his attention and concern no matter what was going on in his life and made you feel like you were the most important person in the world,” Glinn told NJJN.
Rockman was born in Carteret, May 23, 1923, the youngest of Mamie and Leo Rockman’s five children. He lived in Metuchen for many years, and later in North Brunswick, Monroe, and Freehold.
Friends and family recalled his passion for books, politics, religion, and food.
“We could talk about anything in the world from Jewish theology to sports,” said Glinn. “That was the kind of person he was. There were two books he gave me by Rabbi [Abraham J.] Twerski that I still have and read today.”
Those books, presented to Glinn when he became Ohev Shalom president, are “Growing Each Day” and “Living Each Day,” which Glinn said provide anecdotes and life lessons from scripture.
“He was not only musically brilliant, but a person of diverse interests, experiences, and knowledge,” he said. “When we held his retirement dinner, I spoke and said that few people had a presence like he did. When he walked into a room people were drawn to him because of his kindness, welcoming nature, and the way he made you feel important.”
Rockman was married to the late Bashe Bears Rockman for 49 years and the late Dove Miller Rockman for 20 years.
In addition to son Bruce (Stacey) of North Brunswick, he is survived by children Spencer (Audrey) of Edison; Ron (Sharon) of Scotch Plains; and Pamela (Neil) of Pikesville, Md.; nine grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.
Funeral services were held April 24.