Remembering Our Friend and Scholar, Harold Brackman
The below article is an adaptation of a eulogy delivered last week on behalf of historian and frequent Algemeiner contributor Harold Brackman.
In the Jewish tradition, we always look to the Biblical portion of the Torah we read on the Sabbath to guide us and provide some perspective.
This coming Shabbat, we will read Shelach, the narrative focused on the disastrous failure of the elite of the Tribes of Israel who were dispatched to re-contour the Holy Land. The Midrash says that Moses succinctly summarized the cost of this failed leadership: “Dor Tahapuchot Hima, Banim Lo Aimun Bam”: They have turned the truth and reality on its head — they lost the trust of the younger generation….”
The word for eulogy in Hebrew is Hesped, related phonetically to the word Hefsaid — which means loss.
The word in Hebrew for a headstone at a cemetery is Matzeiva, related to the Hebrew word Matzav — to evaluate a situation.
We have all suffered a devastating loss of a great man, whom too few knew or appreciated.
We are gathered here today as friends and colleagues — including those from the Simon Wiesenthal Center — to say farewell to a beloved colleague and friend, Herschel David Ben Ruth Brackman, who was taken on his 75th birthday.
Actually, Harold would be shocked by what we have to say about him.
He never saw himself as a leader. He never cared if his name ever appeared on a plaque at the Museum of Tolerance, he could care less if his name appeared on the byline of the hundreds and hundreds of op-eds that he wrote, co-authored, or contributed to.
In my loving relationship with Harold — as in all loving relationships — we would often raise our voices debating whether and how to forge a statement or paragraph.
There were two simple criteria: Truth, and defense of our values and beloved Israel.
Anyone who ever met Harold knows that he didn’t have a muscular, chiseled profile. But in the battlefield of the marketplace of ideas, there was no one else that Rabbi Hier, Rabbi Adlerstein, Michele, Liebe, Felice, Sue, and myself would want manning our outposts and providing ammunition to repel the enemy, reassure our friends, and educate the clueless with his encyclopedic knowledge of vast fields.
On this battlefield, few matched his unstinting integrity and courage.
For us, Harold was a Google search engine years before there was a Google.
When Louis Farrakhan launched his endless verbal missiles against Jews and Judaism, Harold manned the barricades.
When the Nation of Islam published a book, which charged that Jews played a central role in the Black slave trade to America, Harold immediately produced a work that refuted those lies with the unvarnished truth. It won him few friends in academia, but he won our everlasting admiration and respect.
Over the years, Harold helped me to expand the bandwidth of my understanding of history and people. I hope and pray that he gained as much in return from this friend, and from his many admirers.
As we bury our dear friend, I ask Harold to forgive me and each of us, for any slights or hurt we may have caused him.
A great American, a proud Jew, a brilliant writer, our unlikely hero: Herschel David Ben Ruth … Rest in peace.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper is the associate dean and director of Global Social Action Agenda for the Simon Wiesenthal Center.