“Your dead cease to love you and the homes of their nativity as soon as they pass the portals of the tomb. They wander far off beyond the stars, are soon forgotten, and never return.
“Our dead never forget the beautiful world that gave them being. They still love its winding rivers, its great mountains and sequestered vales, and they ever yearn in tenderest affection over the lonely-hearted living, and often return to visit and comfort them.
“When your children’s children shall think themselves alone in the field, the shop, upon the highway, or in the silence of the woods, they will not be alone. In all the earth, there is no place dedicated to solitude.”
— Chief Seattle, 1854
Max Goldberg was born in a tiny house near the Platte River in 1911 to parents who hailed from Brest Litovsk — Brisk — in Russia.
He died 50 years ago last Friday, a son of this city, a leading figure in its television, newspaper and political worlds.
The memories never fade and the pain remains.
I remember perhaps the greatest chesed, kindness, ever done to me. I learned of my father’s death right after Elaine and I had moved to Israel, and had to scramble to find a flight to make it back to Denver for the funeral. The need to focus on these details exacerbated an already overwhelming pain. Rabbi Naftali Kaplan walked with me from place to place, and uttered not one single word. When nothing can assuage the pain, say nothing. I can never forget Rabbi Kaplan’s kindness and sensitivity. He was with me, nothing more—and nothing less.
And the same for my wife Elaine, who could not accompany me to Denver as she was in her ninth month — the same for Elaine, after my return to Israel.
The memories never fade. Dad interviewed on his weekly prime time television show, as he put it, “the great, the near great, and the obscure.” They remembered him and remembered my mother, Dad’s assistant. The interview with John Kennedy took place in February, 1960. Well into the 1970s Pierre Salinger, who was Kennedy’s press secretary, came to Jerusalem. I thought maybe I could meet him and went to the King David Hotel. I met him in the lobby, introduced myself and began to remind him of his meeting with my father some 15 or 17 years earlier.
Salinger stopped me. He did not need to be reminded. He asked for my Dad and for my mother by name and recalled them fondly. How many thousands of people had he met in between? That was the human impact that Dad and Mom left. It came through in all his endeavors.
Dad was enterprising. He learned Spanish in his childhood from his Hispanic neighbors. He met Chaim Weizmann, the first president of Israel, just after Israel’s War of Independence, in 1949. The trip to Israel took 48 hours on a military surplus aircraft. The seat was a crate. Dad interviewed Martin Luther King, Jr., twice, and George Wallace. He convinced Dwight David Eisenhower to dedicate Rose Hospital.
Dad appreciated the enterprising efforts of others. When Yeshiva Toras Chaim came to Denver, it met with opposition and even more skepticism. My father welcomed the Yeshiva and gave it legitimacy in the pages of the Intermountain Jewish News.
The Torah portion read for the week he died records: “When G-d destroyed the cities of the plain — Sodom and Gommorah — G-d remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the upheaval where Lot lived” (Genesis 19:29).
Rashi asks: Why is Abraham mentioned here? He was not rescued, he did not live in Sodom. This rescue was about Lot, not about Abraham.
Rashi answers: Lot was rescued on the merit of his keeping quiet when Abraham was in Egypt, masquerading as Sarah’s brother rather than as his wife. Lot did not squeal on Abraham.
The Saba of Slobodka questions Rashi. Excuse me! The Nazis are at the door and I answer the door and my family is hiding in the closet and I don’t rat on them. This is a merit? This is all there is to say for Lot? For this, Lot is rescued?
The Saba answers: No human being was ever faced with temptation like that of Lot. His uncle was the great Abraham. The discoverer of G-d. The pillar of outreach and kindness. The person who turned out to be the most influential person in human history. Lot’s temptation was to imitate Abraham. How strong this temptation must have been. Whatever level Lot might have achieved by imitating Abraham, it meant nothing. A person is not measured by how he imitates others. Low though it may have been, Lot’s capacity to keep silent and protect Abraham in Egypt was his own achievement. This was Lot himself. This was his integrity. This was not Lot imitating somebody else. For this — for Lot’s originality — he was rewarded.
This was why Abraham was mentioned in conjunction with Lot’s rescue from the destruction of Sodom.
On a higher level than Lot, I trust, my father was an original. As a child and a teen he sold the Denver Post on the street corners of downtown Denver for pennies to help support his widowed mother — two pennies for the daily paper, a nickel for the Sunday paper. But 20 years later he was writing the premier column in the Denver Post, and did so for 23 years, when he was too ill to continue.
My Dad had no funds to pursue a higher education. But 25 years after the time he would have graduated from college, he founded Channel 9, the first network television station in Colorado, having secured the FCC license and organized the business group that bought the station.
Orphaned at age seven and sent to work after school, he had no formal Jewish education. But decades later, when his mother died, he studied and learned how to lead the prayers.
With a high school education he became publisher of the Intermountain Jewish News and a crisp, colorful writer. The newspaper was bleeding the precursor of JEWISHcolorado dry, it was a losing proposition, and Dad acquired it for $10 — it, and its debts — thanks to the late Sidney Grossman and AB Hirschfeld. That was in 1943, nearly 80 years ago.
Dad raised the funds that built General Rose Memorial Hospital, now called Rose Medical Center. He ran the political campaign of Gov. Ralph Carr, who let the Japanese into Colorado during their disgraceful confinement during WW II. He ran the political campaigns of many others, including those of Senator and then Governor Edwin “Big Ed” Johnson.
Ed Johnson was like a father to my father, who hardly remembered his own father. To an extent, Rabbi Charles Eliezer Hillel Kauvar played the same role.
The searing loss of my Dad’s father Yehiel united the family in a way that might not otherwise have come to be. And so, I saw the human side of Dad beyond his encounters with the “great, the near great, and the obscure”; I saw it in the love between him and his eight siblings, and between each and every one of them.
So the memories never fade. So sweet. So bittersweet. Elaine and I have been blessed with children named after Dad, and from him and from some of his siblings have come Torah scholars both in Israel and in the US, who would do their great- or their great-great-grandfather proud, that is, my Dad’s father Yehiel who died in the previous pandemic in 1918, at age 42. He left nine children, all native Yiddish speakers.
How I wish I knew Yiddish like Dad did. He relished it, and built friendships around it, such as with Mendel Shapiro.
Now, all of Dad’s papers and some of his TV tapes are catalogued for research in the Denver Public Library.
The memories never fade, and so, “when your children’s children shall think themselves alone in the field, the shop, upon the highway, or in the silence of the woods, they will not be alone. In all the earth, there is no place dedicated to solitude.”
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