Remembering Milton Himmelfarb

On Friday we noted the death of Milton Himmelfarb and the special Commentary links to several of the articles he had published in the magazine over the years. I had the great good fortune of meeting Milton Himmelfarb when he spoke at our temple in St. Paul in 1975. After his talk he agreed to chat with me for the better part of a beautiful fall afternoon at our rabbi’s home. He generously shared his thoughts about politics and policy. He made a special effort to help me sort out the relationships in his illustrious family. It was a memorable experience for me.
Edward Himmelfarb is Milton Himmelfarb’s son. We have corresponded on matters related to Power Line. Today Edward Himmelfarb writes:

Thank you for your kind words about my father, Milton Himmelfarb, on Power Line. I remember an email exchange with you about a year and a half ago, in which you recalled having heard him speak at your shul in St. Paul in 1975, which, I might say, shows you have a very impressive memory.

I spoke at my father’s funeral on Thursday, mostly of personal recollections, but I thought you might be interested in the last page and a half or so, in which I discussed his article “Going to Shul,” written while saying Kaddish for his father, my Grandpa Max. So I’ve attached a copy of my eulogy. (“Going to Shul,” by the way, is one of the articles linked at Commentary’s web site.)

We were sitting shiva with my mother at their house through motz’ei shabbat, and the children and grandchildren have now gone home to finish shiva there. My mother is with two of my sisters.

During his illness we could only think about him and worry and try to help. God gave us a little extra time with him, though not nearly enough. But at least now we can stop worrying and we can think back with pleasure to celebrate his life.

Here is the conclusion of Edward Himmelfarb’s lovely eulogy of his father:

After Dad’s father, my Grandpa Max, died in 1965, Dad wrote an article in Commentary called “Going to Shul.” On re-reading it, I noticed just how Dad-like it was. Dad wrote, “I still catch myself daydreaming about the things I would do if I were rich. Lately, one of those things has been to have my own shul, with the legislative, executive, and judicial powers all mine. I would make some radical reforms, of a generally reactionary character.” There’s something so “Dad” about fantasizing about having absolute power to change how the shul operates.

Elsewhere in the article, Dad wrote about saying Kaddish for Grandpa Max:

“Although we have been born when it is hard to believe in immortality, the Kaddish helps us to believe, a little. I know that it makes me think of my father often, more than forty times a week; and it will keep reminding me of him after I have stopped saying the Kaddish daily, when I hear someone else say it and I make the appropriate response. To think of my father, to recall him, is to hold off his mortality –

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