A Three Gun Salute to the Hedonist, Philosopher, and Educator – Daniel Rogov
I guess I can say that I really knew very little about Daniel Rogov’s (AKA David Juroff) personal life, and that was fine by me. I knew little of Daniel or his likes or dislikes, until I started reading all about them in his books and on the two forums (the original one became defunct a couple of years ago) to which he truly dedicated his life. To say that my wine and culinary knowledge was weaned at the feet of Mr. Rogov would be an understatement. The few times I was fortunate enough to met him one word about him came clear to me; Philosopher. His speech, cadence, knowledge, and overall delivery style was clearly a blend of many environments that he grew up in, but it was also clear that behind his persona lived a philosopher. He lived his life to the fullest, and was angered when people, organizations, and even his own country disallowed him to see life as he did. He always had a cigarette in his hand and a smile on his face, his very persona may have been a philosopher and hedonist, but his true joy came from educating the masses on the true joys of life. To Daniel life was not complete unless it was lived to its fullest, much like the phrase in Psalms; Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. Daniel needed to taste of this world and he loved to share those tastes with the world as well. To Daniel life was seen in the eyes of hedonism. Some may see that as an insult, but they would be wrong, hedonism is not a cult, it is not an evil way of thinking, and it is surely not a pleasure bound binge. Simply stated Hedonism is a school of thought which argues that pleasure is the only intrinsic good. In very simple terms, a hedonist strives to maximize net pleasure (pleasure minus pain) (taken from Wikipedia). When people would post about food or wine on the forum, Daniel would always be quick to remind them that life was truly too short to accept mediocrity. Life was indeed too short for Daniel – to that I personally can attest!
Daniel Rogov was an educator to the masses, through his books, newspaper articles, and Internet forums. I would often laugh at web sites and apps that would say that they gave you access to the world of wines at your fingertips. To them I would always say, I have the world of food and wine at my fingertips, because Daniel was always just a forum post or email away. His unbelievable ability to remember wines, foods and tastes from years gone by was second nature to him, but his never-ending patience to share that with all of his followers is what made him truly happy. He was a human first and a critic second, though many tried to sue him (unsuccessfully) for libel (a critic’s weight to bear), he was always true to his calling. He had beliefs and opinions that I did not agree with, and thankfully I was never foolish enough to attempt to convince him of them to the otherwise (though many were all too happy to try), but he never let those beliefs cloud his professionalism.
I may not have known Daniel the person well, nor the professional in person, but I think many of us were privy to know Daniel through the Internet on a truly personal level. You cannot post tens of thousands of times to two forums for more than 10 years without showing some your personality, and through the forum I think many of us were privy to see the man behind the persona.
I learned a fair amount of my knowledge of wine and food through many sources, but it was Daniel’s books, newspaper articles, and forum posts that truly shaped what little knowledge that I do have. Daniel was the wine and food guru for us religious Jews who yearned for better eats. Sure there were wine and food critics out there in the world, but who spent the time and had the knowledge about the most obscure kosher winery? In one word – Daniel! If we had a quick question about a wine or how to whip up a dish – Daniel was always there to answer. In the hundreds of times that I asked a question or posted a wine note, Daniel was always there to answer me or agree/disagree with a complementary note of his own. Very rarely would I find a wine or food that Daniel had not tried or was going to be trying soon, his encyclopedic knowledge of the world of kosher and non-kosher food alike, was epic! Like with my own parents, one dos not really know what you have lost until you have something exciting happen in your life and you reach for the phone or keyboard to share it, only to realize there is no one on the other side of the line.
I still reel from the fact that I just had a wonderful conversation with him, some 6 months ago in his usual office on Basel Street, at the Arcaffe, and we were talking about the world of Israeli wine. I can still hear his voice in my head, it was then that I told him I wanted to write an article about him and he sounded ok with the idea. We also spoke about how he would be coming to America soon and that we may work together on a plan for that. In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps (Proverbs 16:9). I never though that my article on Daniel would be this three gun salute. The man was our bastion and like all things mortal, they come to an end. The real shock was the speed at which that came about. He kept his illness (cancer) under a shroud of privacy, much like the rest of his personal life, but the ferociousness by which it took him was almost shocking. The wine world held a tribute dinner in his honor on August 29th 2011 and he left us all a week later on September 7th. The pictures from the tribute dinner were shocking, the man I saw in those pictures in no way resembled the man I saw a few months prior.
Many may be quick to cut down the man for his reviews, his opinions, or his beliefs, and some may say that his followers (myself included) revered him in an almost cult like fashion. Not withstanding many of those statements, I can honestly say that he was always true to his way, his life, and his rules. Still, they were always, in my interactions, honest, truthful, full of vigor and knowledge, and professional to the end. The irony that a man who lived such a secular Jewish life was also a guiding light to the many religious Jews looking for culinary guidance – is not lost on me. I always saw it for what it was, Daniel was sharing his knowledge with a group of people, we accepted him and he accepted us, no judgment, no questions, just an open and honest dialogue between two humans. There will always be his detractors, to them I say, it is a shame that you did not have the opportunity to see Daniel for who he was.
Of course seeing his passing through a personal prism, the kosher world has lost a true treasure – Daniel’s ability to rate and discern the good, bad, and the ugly of all things kosher were beyond compare. His uncanny ability to rationalize the wine world into what we could understand is truly a loss as well. In NO way am I stating that Daniel was the guru of the kosher wine world alone. Rather, what I am stating is that on a very personal level we have lost a wonder that may well never be duplicated. The culinary world as a whole has lost a hedonist, who always enjoyed life to its fullest, a philosopher who could spin words and tales with the best of them and keep you enthralled throughout, but maybe more we have all lost a truly fantastic educator that was always ready with the truth, whether we wanted it or not.
In his own self-posted obituary he stressed how he loved food and wine, but also how he gained enormous pleasure from sharing his thoughts in his many varied mediums. He lived life on this earth on his own terms and he left this world on those very same terms.
You will be missed Daniel Rogov. Your love for life, your knowledge, patience, and your willingness to share it with all of us, will be dearly missed!!
Rest in peace Daniel Rogov