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Howard Gotlieb is remembered for his work, friendship and wisdom

Rabbi Donald Pollack delivered a eulogy at burial Friday

Rabbi Donald J. Pollock delivered this eulogy in memory of Howard B. Gotlieb at his burial Friday afternoon in Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge. To read Gotlieb’s obituary, click here.

Sometimes, if we are lucky, someone enters our life who gives us real insight into the nature of our humanity. Sometimes, if we are fortunate, someone enters our life who changes forever how we look at our world. Sometimes, if we are blessed, someone enters our life who, by example, teaches us about the possibilities of goodness, caring, and connection. Such a man was Howard Gotlieb.

Dr. Gotlieb had that rare quality for which I cannot find any adequate word in English, but as I ponder how to capture the essence of the man, a Yiddish word comes to my mind.

That word is “menschlichkeit.” Menschlichkeit is first and foremost, an innate form of wisdom. It is wisdom about how one should lead one’s life. It means being decent, compassionate, and empathic. It means caring about others and always choosing to do right. It means having the capacity within oneself to see the best in others and to value and to respect and, in Howard Gotlieb’s case, to collect, their very essence, to collect the very best of what was on their minds and in their souls. To have the quality of menschlichkeit means to be the ultimate friend, to show true caring, to be able to understand another’s pain, to be able to rejoice at another’s success. And for Dr. Gotlieb, this also meant to be able to chronicle it so that others in generations to come would gain insight into how we live and who the people were who shaped our world.

Howard Gotlieb was a rare soul, a gentleman of the old school, dignified, aware, joyous, and giving. He was a collector – of people, of ideas, of objects, that would come to define the 20th century. He possessed a singular capacity to understand another person’s genius while it was still in its development, and often to encourage and nurture that genius. His own genius was in understanding another’s potential, and for that he gained the respect of his peers and his friends. But another part of his genius was that he was always willing to share. Howard was always willing to share the best moments of his life with his friends — you, his community of people that he cared about the most. He reveled in the way people connected, and he celebrated the joy that came from individual expression and creative enterprise.

Howard Gotlieb has helped us to see ourselves. His accomplishments will continue on, way beyond his passing. His impact on this world and its values, and his belief in humanity and the human spirit, will be noted as inspirational. The way that he led his life, with decency, charm, and élan, will be remembered by many for the power and the beauty that he so willingly shared. The grandness of his life was only eclipsed by his menschlichkeit. The way he comported himself was only surpassed by his vision.

The power of this man was in his insight into how we are all interconnected and how we are all each other’s keepers.

Let us not only honor him for his work but let us remember the power of his soul. Dr. Howard Gotlieb brought so much to so many lives, and his pioneering work will give those in the future a view of who we are. Let us honor him for who he was and for his quest, and realize how deeply he will be missed.