When Rabbi Jim Diamond was killed suddenly and unexpectedly, it was just moments after taking leave from the very activity that defined him as a scholar: a Talmud study session.
Our Talmud study group in Princeton, N.J. met every Thursday over breakfast — six men, including three rabbis and three civilians. We usually met at Bon Appetit Gourmet Market and Café, but it was Passover, and hametz was out, so we met on March 28 at one of our homes, across from a local school.
It was after we had finished our study session, as Jim was about to get into Rabbi Robert Freedman’s car to be driven home, that another car approached traveling 60 to 80 miles per hour on the wrong side of the road. In the blink of an eye, it plowed directly into my car, which was parked in front of Rabbi Freedman’s car, and, somehow, Jim was struck — perhaps by the door of the car he was entering, perhaps directly by my own unoccupied vehicle. He died instantly.
The 20-year-old driver, Princeton resident Eric Maltz, was arrested and charged with vehicular homicide. Freedman sustained injuries from which he is expected to make a complete physical recovery. But none of us who were there that day will ever heal from the memory of that morning.
Jim, who was 74, was a very special man — a Hillel rabbi at Princeton University’s Center for Jewish Life, a scholar, a disc jockey (classical music) and a professor of comparative literature.
I have felt for many years that Jim was one of my most special friends. But over those years, I have repeatedly discovered that many others felt the same way about him. I have mentioned Jim to friends from other communities, and frequently I’ve been told a story: He married this one; he changed that one’s life; he was this one’s rabbi. And I would take these stories back to him. Invariably, his memory of each person meant as much to him as their respective memories of him did to them. All these people, and hundreds of others, showed up Sunday, March 31, for his funeral at the Jewish Center of Princeton.
Jim left behind a wife of 50 years from a marriage that was a model of partnership; a brother and a sister; a son and two daughters, and six grandchildren, plus hundreds of students, former congregants and study partners. There is a big hole in the world.