Martin Gilbert, who recently died, completed the official biography of Winston Churchill and wrote many other books on Jewish, general and British history. But he was also an extraordinary mensch. I experienced his kindness myself.
Gilbert was invited to be scholar-in-residence at my synagogue over a decade ago. I had read several of his books but never met the eminent historian and was excited to do so. Shortly before he came I fell ill with a seizure and brain tumor. I was recovering, and unable to go anywhere, the weekend he spoke. We had a brief conversation on the phone and I told him I was always interested in WWI, about which he had written a fine book. Three weeks later from England, a package arrived: five books on World War I, all signed by the authors who were friends of Gilbert’s.
A few years later when I recovered and was traveling in England, he invited me to his house to finally meet. Over dinner I told him how much his gracious gesture meant to me. He was characteristically diffident and humble. To be an historian of Gilbert’s caliber is extremely rare. To be renowned and so kind is a model from which all can learn, and so honor the memory of this true scholar and gentleman. May his memory be for a blessing.
Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @RabbiWolpe. His latest book, “David: The Divided Heart” (Yale University Press), has recently been published.