Our bother and Elder Frank Houtz passed away suddenly late in February. This edition of the BYNA newsletter is presented in honor of him.
In Loving Memory of Frank Houtz
Unity Through Humility and Scholarship –
the Vision of Frank Houtz
Filling The Void: How I Remember Frank Houtz
by Ken Rank
When I was much younger, I was a very gifted athlete. I was a national Junior Olympic champion in a Pentathlon. I set school records in the 400 and 800 meters, and the long jump. I was a gifted baseball player, soccer player, basketball player, and I even won a medal boxing in the Army. If I were asked about all the details, the times and distances, the moments and experiences, it would sound as if I were embellishing my past. In fact, my brother Mike often said, “If I didn’t know you did all that stuff, I wouldn’t believe you!”
My brother’s view of my accomplishments are how I view the life of my own friend and mentor, Frank Houtz. As you likely know, Frank recently passed. He left quite a void in a movement that needs more people like him, not less. Frank was special. In fact, that word isn’t special enough to rightly express how special he was. Frank was an expert in many things: linguistics, semiotics, etymology, various languages, Ancient Near East customs and culture, biblical hermeneutics, and much more. And when I say “expert,” I am not using that word lightly. I am not suggesting he was merely able to have discussions on these topics. I am saying he was able to teach them at the highest levels of academia.
However, Frank didn’t teach at the great seminaries around the world. Instead, he was humbly where he believed God desired him to be: in Winchester, Kentucky, at a small congregation he and his father started nearly 30 years ago called Beit Minorah. It was there that Frank taught on those subjects, there where he obediently and humbly shared what he so gratefully learned from the Lord. And there where he was able to work on and teach many of his seminars that he would present to members of Beit Minorah and our many guests that would come in for the week of Sukkot (The Feast of Tabernacles). And, not often enough, he was invited to various congregations around the country to teach these seminars.
Frank’s humility and obedient heart kept him from ever being “famous.” Recently I heard somebody call him, “the greatest teacher nobody knew.” Perhaps, in a way, there is some truth to that statement. Yet known or not, Frank was the go-to-guy for many well-known teachers who needed somebody reasoned and balanced to lean on.
As I look at Frank’s life and consider all the things he did, all the things he learned, all the things he taught, I realize I have not yet mentioned the one thing that really leaves me feeling the gap his passing causes. That was his role in work being done to awaken Ephraim and draw God’s Israel to unity through mutual respect and understanding.
The sad reality of that last sentence is that most of God’s Israel do not yet understand the implications of what was just said. Yet that is what made Frank so unique and so well placed in these days, for Frank knew that God was doing a special work in awakening His people to deeper truths, and that this awakening was occurring over a generation. Because he was able to see this greater picture, Frank was incredibly patient with where others were in their walk and saw no reason to attempt to push them toward anything. Instead, he preferred to wait until one was seeking. That was when he knew he had a student.
Unity, through humility and scholarship. Those five words, suggested by his daughter Tikvah as she looked for a way to define her father in one sentence, does indeed sum up the Frank Houtz I knew. He was a man with a heart for God, a love of his family and friends, and a gift for teaching. Yet he struggled, often, as he watched God’s holy work handled with a lack of inner peace. Frank spoke often, at Beit Minorah and as an elder of B’ney Yosef North America, about the need to have inner peace when touching a holy (set apart) thing. When one does not have peace, but is near a holy thing, the result is generally chaos and a lack of unity. I think that often broke Frank’s heart, watching brothers divide from brothers because they lacked the peace to handle the situation they found themselves in.
Despite the occasional broken heart, he was optimistic and continued to not only look for the good in people, but also for those who grasped the bigger picture and acted accordingly. These were those he knew he could network with, count on, and look to when he needed an ear to bend. And it was with and through these people that Frank was able to accomplish many things. I don’t desire to lessen the seeds the Lord planted through Frank’s classes and seminars, but the greater work of Frank Houtz will simply not be known by enough people in this life. But he would have wanted it that way, and I will respect that and refrain despite my desire to tell you more about my friend and how the Lord used him.
Frank Houtz will be missed. That is not in question. What is in question is whether or not there is meaning in him leaving us at this time. Was his work completed? Or had he done all he could, and is it that now is the time for him to be rewarded and others to pick up the slack? I truly believe that Frank’s passing marks a time when many others are to stand up and not only fill the void left by his passing, but become a larger solitary voice of unity and reason. If we can do that, if more can stand in that same spirit of unity through humility, then those two sticks will surely draw near and what Frank saw before most could see will become our reality.
Gentle Spirit, Wise Heart: A Memory of Frank Houtz
by Albert J. McCarn
During the four years that I knew him, Frank Houtz spoke amazing things into my life. I was but one of a multitude so blessed, which is why hundreds of people traveled from far and near to his hometown in Kentucky to honor his memory. The testimony of family and friends at his memorial service gave me new appreciation of the man I knew as an Elder, an advisor, a confidant, and a friend.
Frank had a significant impact for good on many diverse lives. I believe this is largely due to his diligent efforts to learn how to communicate to different audiences. It mattered little whether those with whom he talked agreed with him or not. Then again, it did matter. Not that Frank intended to change anyone’s opinions, but he very much wanted to understand their opinions and why they thought as they did. That was how Frank expressed his appreciation of the value in each man, woman, and child he encountered. His habit was to treat them all with the respect they deserved as people created in the image of the Almighty. He did so even if that respect was not recognized or returned.
That is exactly what Frank did for me. He and I were blessed to be among those who joined together to form B’ney Yosef North America early in 2016. Frank took his place among our Elders at the same time I was installed as Executive Director of the Administrative Council. Our first turbulent year featured considerable tension between these two parts of our governing body. As I now realize, the tension resulted primarily from a communication issue. It’s not that we had different visions of what BYNA was to be, but we had radically different ways of expressing our shared vision.
The critical moment of breakthrough came at our annual gathering in Mesa, Arizona in February 2017, when Divine intervention and humble hearts put us back on track. Frank was key to that process for me. As we sat at a table together, he shared how he had done his best to represent me to his fellow Elders. Then he demonstrated the truth of his statement by relating accurately my own perspective of BYNA’s purpose. I was completely disarmed. By expressing my very own thoughts, this man whom I barely knew showed me how much he cared not only about me, and not only about all of us in BYNA’s leadership, but about the multitudes whom BYNA will touch in time to come.
This is but the beginning of my thoughts about Frank. I will remember him as a man of gentle spirit who imparted wisdom at every turn and changed us all for the better. He left many unfinished projects during his all-too-brief time on this earth, but there are eager hands and hearts who will take up those projects and bring them to completion. That is his legacy, and our lasting joy.
by David Altman
One piece of advice has been offered to me more than any other. On five separate occasions, I have been told, “When Frank Houtz speaks, you listen.” Most people knew of his extraordinary intellect and many knew of his unyielding kindness. If you had the privilege to know him, it was apparent how unique he was. His consideration for others was beyond measure and I can not recall a time where he passed over a friend in need.
It has also been said that names mean things. Describing Frank in a passage of any size would be impossible, or so I thought. His name said it all. His surname was Houtz which simply means mind. Frank, his middle name, means free one. Atona, which most people did not know as his first name, was truly accurate when describing him. Most people did not know the full measure of the man. Atona is undefined and has no definite origin. In short, Frank was too great of a man to define. He was a mind free of definition.
I only knew Frank for a short time. However, in that time, he changed me. He helped me to be a better man. He helped me to follow my Messiah with more kindness and understanding. He left an indelible mark on me. His memory will be a blessing to us all. It was certainly a privilege to know him.
The Mourners Kaddish
May His great Name grow exalted and sanctified
in the world that He created as He willed.
May He give reign to His kingship in your lifetimes
and in your days,
and in the lifetimes of the entire Family of Israel,
swiftly and soon.
May His great Name be blessed forever and ever.
Blessed, praised, glorified, exalted, extolled,
mighty, upraised, and lauded be the Name of the Holy One.
Blessed is He beyond any blessing and song,
praise and consolation that are uttered in the world.
May there be abundant peace from Heaven, and life
upon us and upon all Israel.
May He Who makes peace in His heights, make peace
upon us and upon all Israel.
Atona Frank Houtz Memorial Service from Winchester, Kentucky
The gofundme link to support the Houtz Family. https://www.gofundme.com/support-for-mary-lynn-houtz Note: This fundraising effort is not a BYNA initiative. Although BYNA
supports the effort, we have no association with it and will not receive
any benefits from it.