September 14, 2009

Fred Gottschalk

Fred Gottschalk and DGM, Spring 2001

(Photo by Melanie Einzig)

Dr. Alfred Gottschalk died on Saturday after a long struggle to recover from injuries that he received in an automobile accident last fall. I attended his funeral today at the Plum Street Temple in Cincinnati. Fred was my boss for a number of months when I first arrived at the Museum. He had assumed a new position at the Museum -- that of President -- after the founding director, David Altshuler resigned in 1999.

Fred came to the Museum after a brilliant career at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), where, following in the footsteps of his mentor, Nelson Glueck, Fred became President 1971 and Chancellor in 1995.

Fred was a huge personality with great personal charm, genuine warmth, and intelligence. Born in Germany in 1930, Fred and his family were lucky to get out after Kristallnacht and make their way to the United States. After Boys High and Brookyn College, Fred attended HUC and was ordained a Rabbi in 1957. He later earned a Ph.D. from the University of Southern California.

His impact on the Jewish world was immense, not only through his own contribution as a scholar and communal leader, but also in the impact he had on the thousands of rabbis and other religious and communal leaders, whom he taught and touched in profound ways. Fred ordained the first female Rabbi and did much to strengthen and make more meaningful Jewish life in America.

There were four eulogies at the funeral today. Three by distinguished Rabbis -- all students of Fred's -- and one by his daughter on behalf of his family. The collective message of all of them was that Fred Gottschalk was an extraordinary figure both in his public accomplishments and in the human qualities he brought to his friendships and private relationships.

I was fortunate, indeed, to have had a chance to work closely with Fred Gottschalk, to have been by his side for a while, and to have called him my friend.

No comments: