Eulogy for Mrs. Jean Gluck z"l, Woman of Valor

I think of the way that she delighted in seeing Jewish children; how important it was to her that the children should be happy and rejoice in being Jewish.

Tags: Eugen Gluck
Rabbi Yehuda Oppenheimer

Judaism Jean (Gita) Gluck
Jean (Gita) Gluck

Shortly before Shabbos in Israel I received the sad news of the passing of a special woman whom I had come to know and admire greatly, Mrs. Jean Gluck ע"ה. I wish that I could be there to honor her by accompanying her on her final journey, but I am confident that she would be happy to know that,Baruch Hashem, we are now living in Eretz Yisrael, and I am unable to attend.

Instead, I thought to put down some thoughts that might in some small way contribute to giving her a proper eulogy, along with the many other many well-deserved tributes that I am sure will be expressed, given her prominence and that of, yibodel l’chaim aruchim, her wonderful husband Eugen.

I thought of her often over Shabbos, and of what a blessing she was to so many, in her long and productive life.   My former congregants know that I was always amazed at how the Parshat Shavua always provided timely inspiration for whatever was transpiring.   Parshas Naso was no exception. There were two sections in particular that reminded me of Jean Gluck.

The first was in the cryptic statement of the Torah (Bamidbar 5:10), in discussing donations that were to be given to the kohanim:

ואיש את קדשיו לו יהיו איש אשר יתן לכהן לו יהיה

Everyone's holy things shall belong to him; whatever a man gives to the kohen shall be his

What is meant by “whatever a man gives to the kohen shall be his”?  The kohen’s?  Well of course he owns what he is given.  The donor? He just gave it away! What is the Torah instructing us here?

The general interpretation of this statement is to teach the concept of Tovas Hana’ah.  Although one is required to give the Kohen (and Levi) the Teruma and other gifts that are due to them, the original owner retains Tovas Hana’ah, which is the right to determine which kohen (or Levi) shall be the beneficiary of this donation.   This is a monetary right with various ramifications that need not be discussed here.

I would like to focus on a beautiful homiletic interpretation by the author of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, Rabbi Shlomo Gantzfried, that is so apt here.

Most people, he said, spend much of their lives working to spend, save and invest in the hopes of providing security for ourselves. But what do we really have? At the end of our hopefully long life, what can we say is eternally ours? Stocks crash, and buildings crumble. How real is our estate?   We are buried in tachrichim (shrouds) that are notable for one major design feature – they have no pockets.  You can’t take any of it with you. Wealthy or poor, we all come to this world with nothing, and leave the same way.

Except for one major thing.  The Torah tells us, what a person gives to the Kohen shall be his. It does not say, "... will belong to the Kohen.” It says, “it shall be his!” What we invest in the eternity of spirituality, in order to proliferate Hashem's eternal message, in order to promote Hashem’s agenda of Torah and the destiny of the Jewish people, particularly in Eretz Yisrael, will never be relinquished. For what we invest for eternity, will be eternally invested. It shall always remain ours.

The incredible generosity of the Glucks to so many important causes is truly legendary; the world is truly a better place because of their bounty.   As extremely astute business people, Jean and Eugen invested incredibly wisely, and Jean will only now begin to have an inkling of what an incredible eternal portfolio they have built in Heaven.

Important to me, however, is not just the large amounts of money, but the love and concern and care with which it was given, which – I am quite sure – is valued even more highly in the Heavenly scales.   Which brings me to the second lesson that I took from Parshat Hashavua, from the Birkat Kohanim that I now have the daily honor of performing.

The benediction is concluded with another cryptic verse

ושמו את שמי על בני ישראל ואני אברכם

They shall bestow My Name upon the children of Israel, and I will bless them

Once again, this pasuk raises many questions:  What exactly is the kohen’s role? If Hashem is blessing, why are the kohanim needed?  What does it mean to bestow His name? Again, this is not the place for an extended discussion.

However, I would like to cite the explanation of the Alshich Hakadosh.  He says that the role of the kohanim as expressed in this verse is clearly not to bless the people; that is reserved for Hashem alone.  Rather, the role of the kohanim is to direct the people’s attention to be worthy recipients of Hashem’s bounty, by becoming proper bearers of His holy Name.  Once the kohanim successfully help people understand that their blessings come from Hashem and from Him alone, they will prove worthy to receive that bounty into their lives.

Jean Gluck was not a kohen.  But she certainly was one who knew how to fill people with a love of Hashem and awareness of his bounty in the world and helped so many see the wonderful blessing that could be had thereby.

When I think of Jean Gluck, several memories stand out.  I know the great care that she and Eugen, true partners in every sense in every thing that they did, took to give in a way that lifted spirits, that inspired, that made people proud of their heritage.  Whether in Forest Hills, or Bet El, or at the Hakafot Shniyot in Yeruashalayim or at Shaarei Tzedek, their concern was always to raise spirits and to build people and worthy institutions up, placing Hashem’s Name on people so that they could receive a full measure of His bounty.

I think of the way that she delighted in seeing Jewish children; how important it was to her that the children should be happy and rejoice in being Jewish.  In several precious conversations with her, as she told Lonni and I stories of her youth and of their early struggles as survivors in America, the focus on her joy in Jewish children was overflowing.

Regarding one of the last times that I saw her outside her home, as their guest at the Israel Day parade, I wrote the following:

  • I had the great privilege of watching the parade with several Holocaust survivors.  Watching Jean Gluck stand on her very painful feet – smiling, waving, handing out candy, and joyfully taking it all in for hours – was such an inspiration.  I could not help thinking that surely it crossed the mind of many survivors that they had participated in a parade of a very different sort almost seventy years ago – the infamous and horrible Death March through the forests of Europe.  

  • One of the cruelest and most horrible things that the accursed Nazis, may they eternally rot in hell, made Jews endure was to force the weak, starving inmates – who they had worked to the bone –  to march in the freezing cold at a fast pace for many days in the freezing European winter, for no purpose at all, often on a purposely circuitous route to nowhere.   The camps were abandoned, the war lost; but rather than just letting them go, they forced these poor people on the terrible march where untold thousands who had made it through all the horrors of Auschwitz fell when they had no more strength to go on.  Elie Weisel’s harrowing account in “Night” of his father’s death on the march sticks in one’s mind forever as a symbol of the senseless barbaric cruelty that our people endured.

And yet, there I sat with survivors of those marches, who took such solace in seeing thousands of free, strong, proud, committed young Jews marching with joy and abandon.   What an incredible privilege it was to share a little bit of this with the precious survivors that we still have with us!

Jean and Eugen certainly played that role beautifully.  To know them is to understand that if they could have the incredible Emunah and Bitachon and love of Hashem, and to see the delight in which they made sure to avenge the Nazis by doing so much to rebuild our people, we have to understand that any questions that we who did not go through the Holocaust have must be muted in an awe-filled silence.

I close with confidence that b’Ezrat Hashem, our dear Eugen Gluck, together with all of his wonderful family, will find the strength to go on now that their dear Matriarch has gone on to begin enjoying the dividends of the amazing investments that she and Eugen have awaiting them in the Olam HaEmes, and that she will be a meilitz yosher for them and all of us as we move ever closer to a the Geulah Shelaimah, and a time when we will reunite with our beloved departed ones Bimhayra B’Yameinu