Professor Liviu Librescu, RIP

In the unspeakable tragedy of the Virginia Tech murders, the death of Professor Liviu Librescu has especially brought us up short. He survived the Holocaust as a teenager in Eastern Europe only to become the victim of a murderous rampage in his adoptive homeland. He reminds us of the incalculable human loss represented by the Holocaust. By contrast with the many young victims whose lives were taken at Virginia Tech, however, Professor Librescu had lived a long and productive life. He gave his own life for his students. Out of the scene of crazed destruction the heroism of his death emerges with a redemptive force.
This morning Professor Librescu was laid to rest in Israel as soon as practically possible, in accord with Jewish law. The Jerusalem Post covered the funeral:

Librescu’s son Joe lamented the questions he had never asked his father. “They’re asking me today about your past, and I don’t know what to tell them,” he said. “I’m proud of you. I walk today with [my] head held high.”
“Sometimes I didn’t hear you, but my ears are now wide open to your legacy,” he went on. “I’m doing my best, reaching to the moon – I know I can reach it because of you.”
Librescu’s wife, Marlena [above], mourned the loss of “not just a husband, but my best friend.”
“I was blessed to be with him each day for 42 years – to learn from his wisdom, to receive his advice – and I thank you for giving me our two children. I’m now blessed to be with them,” said Marlena.
“I ask forgiveness from you for every time I upset you. I hope you will protect your family from where you reside now,” she said, adding, “I have only the good left from you…. May it go easy for you, my sweetheart.”
The professor’s other son, Arie, said his father had “always said to be strong.”
“Father, I believe that at this moment you’re looking down on us from above and saying, what is all this crowing around? I only did what I had to do. From our childhood, you taught us to care for people, to work hard, to succeed, but you never taught us to be heroes. It is more theoretical a lesson than aerodynamics,” he said. “A hero must have the right combination of certain attributes, and you had them.”
According to Arie, his father “used every spare minute to do what he loved.” Speaking of his father’s teaching, Librescu said that “the courses in aerodynamics have ended. On the 16th of the month, you started a new career, teaching a new subject – heroism – [which] millions of students are learning.”
Arie thanked family, friends and neighbors in Israel and around the world for all they had done for the family – and particularly for his mother – in their time of loss.
He added special thanks for “a righteous man, an organization, Chabad, someone who drove five hours to mother [the day of the shooting] and made sure the body would come to Israel as soon as possible.”
Rabbi Danny Cohen, a Chabad representative in Hebron and a close friend of Arie, said at the funeral that “[Librescu’s] last act lit a fire of unity throughout the world. This evening, tens of thousands of Jewish women will light Shabbat candles at the special request of [Marlena].”
According to Librescu’s wife, lighting Shabbat candles was his favorite mitzvah.

Alison Kaplan Sommer covers the funeral in “A hero is laid to rest” and Joseph Tartakovsky reflects on Professor Librescu’s sacrifice here. May his memory be for a blessing.


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