We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Mensch is a Yiddish word that means "a person of integrity." A mensch is someone who is responsible, has a high sense of right and wrong and lives that way, and is the sort of person other people look up to. It is one of the very highest compliments that can be said about someone.
My friend, US born and raised Barry Rubin, who passed away yesterday, was a mensch. Barry Rubin for decades was a leading scholar on the Middle East, former professor, widely published in major newspaper and blog columns, author of many books, leader of research institutes, and counselor to others around the world. Indeed, on this last point, the extent of his secret and frank communications with people in Moslem countries whose views varied from Barry's is an important indicator of how well respected he was as well as the depth of the well from which he drew his insights.
There are informative obits at The Jerusalem Post and The Jewish Press. You will be seeing many more obituaries and remembrances at many other locations. Here, for example, is Roger Simon at PJ Media.
That is considered one of the measures of a life's worth, what is left
behind for the benefit of the remaining generations. Barry's insights
and the decent way he went about delivering them is quite a heritage.
Barry and I corresponded for
many years. We had some mutual friends. Whenever I emailed Barry a
question, I received a quick and helpful reply, regardless of how busy
he was. In fact, busy was another of Barry's hallmarks, tirelessly
always writing, speaking, reaching out. Several years ago Barry was on a
US speaking tour and came to San Diego to speak before a large group.
Barry came with me to my synagogue on Sabbath, spent time with our very
knowledgable Rabbi and spoke to the congregation. He had others to
meet also, so I became his chauffeur for a few days and during our hours
together discussed a wide range of subjects. He soaked up others' views
and could describe almost anything succinctly (less discursive than in
his columns). The one personal favor he asked was to be taken to San
Diego's model railway museum, where his face lit up like a child.
Last April my sons and I went
to Israel for my elder son Jason's Bar Mitzvah. After touring the rest
of the country, we spent a day and evening with Barry. Barry's family
apartment is designed like a walk-through railway flat. The large front
parlor was full of two miniature railroads and panoramas that Barry had
built. Barry took a lot of time to speak with Jason as we strolled
around the older, more historic parts of Tel Aviv. Barry's face glowed,
and I heard him recite it in a murmur,as we stood in Tel Aviv's old city
hall and listened to a tape of David Ben Gurion's declaration of
independence speech for Israel's creation as a modern state. Barry's son
-- also nearing Bar Mitzvah age-- joined us at dinner. Exhibiting his
father's curiosity, Barry's son grilled me about weapons used in
Vietnam. I quickly told him that he already knew more than I did. One
could expect no less from Barry's son.
I'll let others discuss Barry Rubin and the Middle East. Instead, I'll add two more personal anecdotes:
About a year and a half ago,
Barry was dignosed with lung cancer. He had never smoked. Israel has a
generally well-working state-run health insurance system and good
doctors, but costs are escalating and care getting slimmer. Barry was
given a very short time to live and told to go home. Barry was,
naturally, depressed. His mother-in-law, a doctor in the US, went to
work researching and discussing, and came up with a medication that put
Barry into full remission. Barry told me he felt it was like a rebirth,
and that he should work all the harder to educate others about Israel
and the Middle East. Our time on earth is limited but the potential of
our contributions isn't.
At dinner in Tel Aviv, Barry said to me that the number of Americans
collecting benefits from the government was the primary cause of
President Obama's reelection. I replied that was secondary to the impact
of the liberal dominated major media influencing swing voters. He sat
back and thought a moment, and answered that was primary to Obama adding
to his base supporters to be elected. Barry was always open to
additional information and flexible to incorporate what was true into
his own views. Civilized discourse was Barry's guiding star.
Barry Rubin, a mensch, a scholar, my good friend, I and the world
will miss you but continue to prosper from your decency, hard work,
intelligence, and education.
Barry Rubin was a true humanist, in the old-fashioned sense: He was brilliant, informed, moral, kind, and incredibly generous with his time and wisdom. Yours is a lovely homage to an equally lovely man.