Kehilat Kesher was privileged to call Rabbi Hertzberg a member of our shul. In the beginning he was a minyan man and a regular teacher of Pirkei Avot in the summer. Soon after we moved a little further from his home he took ill and was not able to make the walk on a regular basis.
I had the pleasure of sitting and talking with him about the local community and the larger Jewish community. His insights and advice were always powerful. He loved to share stories about his chasidic roots, his learning and his adventures in Jewish politics. Our conversations would meander from faith and doubt to wine and cheese to Talmud to Rabbi Solovietchik and whatever or whomever was on his mind.
When I would tell my non-Orthodox colleagues that he was a member of my shul they would all open their eyes widely and ask, "what's that like?" Some were surprised that he would join an Orthodox synagogue, still others that he would join a shul of which he, or his father, were not the rabbi.
I look forward to reminding my eldest son Shamma of the time that he sat on my lap at the 70th anniversary of Rabbi Hertzberg's Bar Mitzvah. Here was this very powerful man, sharing with all of us about how he does not feel worthy to wear the Tefillin of his grandfather. At some point he came to shed a tear, at another point he yelled at everyone in the room not to be apathetic. My son said to me, "why is that man roaring like a lion?" And roar he did!
Those same tefillin were put on him almost every day by Rabbi Chanan Jacobson. Whether his arms were hurting or had bandages, he would do his best to lay tefillin.
I hope that Rabbi Hertzberg is remembered not for his controversial stances on Israeli politics and not for his involvement with the AJC or WJC. Rather, he should be remembered as a man who struggled with Judaism and our mission in this world. He was also able to inspire others to seek involvement in the Jewish Community.
Few funerals today would be attended by Belzer and Habad Hasidim, Dr. David Ellinson, several dozen Conservative and Reform rabbis, a few Modern Orthodox rabbis and several hundred other jews and non-jews.
May his memory be for a blessing – yehei zichro barukh