The great medieval rabbi-philosopher-physician Maimonides advocated the middle path in life, balance without extremism.
Rabbi Dr. Edward Reichman of Woodmere, N.Y., said this description characterized his father, Rabbi Bernard (Baruch) Reichman, who died April 2 after more than 50 years as spiritual leader of Congregation Anshai Lebowitz.
“My father stood for balance and not being extreme in any way. No one should ever be too extremely angry or extremely happy in life,” Edward said in a recent telephone interview. “It was my father’s outlook on life.”
Edward’s rabbi and attorney older brother, Howard Reichman of Silver Spring, Md., added, “Our father was a bridge between extreme right wing Orthodox and left wing Reform. He was friendly with [all denominational] rabbis; they regarded him as a close colleague, which isn’t true of all rabbis.”
And not only Jews, but people from all walks of life held Reichman in high regard, Edward said. “All clergy, non-Jewish, from all different religions loved and revered him. He respected everyone and wasn’t judgmental.”
‘No one unimportant’
In a separate phone interview, Rabbi Gil-Ezer Lerer, close family friend to the Reichmans and spiritual leader of Temple Menorah, related how Reichman’s full attention was given to every individual.
Lerer remembers that he spent Shabbat afternoons at the Reichman household while the rabbi mentored bar mitzvah students. “There was one-on-one time and he enjoyed listening” to each student, Lerer said.
“Our father really gave his total attention to everybody who needed it and [was] extremely dedicated to [the] synagogue and [the] Jewish people,” said Howard.
Eddie added that his father also helped with adult bar mitzvah celebrations. “He was able to facilitate people accomplishing in life what they never thought they could accomplish. People would say, ‘There’s no way I could do this,’ [yet] they amazed themselves at what they can do.”
In another phone interview, Anshai Lebowitz’s co-president Dan Chudnow said Reichman “was much beloved by the entire congregation. The members felt a close connection with him. No one was unimportant to him and the congregation felt that.”
Reichman’s relationships spanned generations. Howard said that congregants would often tell him, “Your father married me and now he is marrying off my children.”
Reichman’s influence reached well beyond his congregation. According to past Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle articles, he served two terms as president of the Wisconsin Council of Rabbis. He was a member of the Chicago Rabbinical Council and the Chicago Board of Rabbis.
In addition, Reichman was a member of the Governor’s Commission for the United Nations. He served as chaplain at different sites, including Fort McCoy, the Veterans Administration hospital in Toma, and the Milwaukee VA Medical Center. He also helped found the Hillel Academy Jewish day school, from which his sons graduated.
Reichman was spiritual leader of Congregation Sons of Abraham in La Crosse for six years prior to serving Anshai Lebowitz.
While in La Crosse, Reichman earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and psychology from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and did graduate work in education at the University of Minnesota-Winona. Education was so important to Reichman that one of his first endeavors upon becoming Anshai Lebowitz’s rabbi in 1965 was to start a congregational school.
Reichman’s leadership led to international trips. In May 2003, he visited Germany on a five-day mission to Berlin, Munich, and Frankfurt, with ten rabbis from around the country.
Four months prior, in January 2003, Reichman traveled with a group of Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform rabbis on a mission to Ukraine and Israel.
In an article about this trip for The Chronicle, Reichman wrote that despite the then-27 months of the second Intifada (Palestinian Arab uprising), American Jews should visit Israel.
Reichman wrote, “Israel is our spiritual mother. If a person’s mother were (G-d forbid) ill, they would do anything in their power to help her, visit her and comfort her. There is no time like now to do this.”
Born in Jerusalem, Reichman spent his first 14 years there before joining his father in New York. Reichman’s father left due to the depressed economy in then-Palestine in order to earn a better living.
On a return trip to Israel after ordination from Mesivta Rabbi Chaim Berlin in New York, he met Shoshana Weingarten, who became his wife. She died in 2000.
In addition to his sons, Edward (Sara) Reichman and Howard (Elkie) Reichman, he is survived by eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
The funeral took place April 4 at Har Tamir Cemetery in Jerusalem. A memorial service in Wisconsin is being planned for June. For further details, call the synagogue, 262-512-1195.
Joshua Becker is a Spanish teacher for Shorewood Public Schools and a freelance writer.