Remembering Rabbi Ozer Glickman

We were devastated to learn about the sudden death of Rabbi Ozer Glickman of Teaneck on March 19.

By “we” I mean I, but I also mean the local Jewish community, the Yeshiva University community of which he was a vital part, and much of the rest of the wider Jewish community, because everyone knew him. I suspect that it’s also true of the business community where he worked, because he was that kind of man.

It seems odd to use the past tense about Tony Glickman, because he was a person of such force, charisma, and life that the thought that his heart — and of all organs, this extraordinarily big-hearted man’s heart — had betrayed him seems impossible.

Rabbi Glickman, who was only 67 when he died, was one of those people who did so much, thought so much, taught so much, knew so many people and cared so much about all of them, that is hard to imagine the world without him. He will leave a huge, Ozer Glickman-sized hole in the world. But on the other hand, his presence was so palpable that it is likely that it will linger.

Rabbi Glickman lived in many worlds, occupying each of them like a native. Although he did not grow up Orthodox but chose Orthodoxy for himself, he was so at home there that one of his most overwhelming pleasures was to teach Jewish thought to rabbinical students. He was a tremendously successful businessman, and both spoke and taught business. He was widely read, and could quote poetry almost as a Victorian, taught to memorize as we no longer are taught to do, could. He was a gifted natural musician, who supported himself at one point, early in his adult life, through music. He also was the son of a Frenchwoman, who taught him French and read him Saint-Exupéry’s “Little Prince,” in French, when he was a child.

How are all those things possible? How could any one person do all those things — and many many more? We have no idea. It is tiring just to think about being able to do all those things, much less actually doing them. But he did them.

He also was a husband and a father; he loved his wife, Ilana, their six children, and their growing brood of grandchildren with a surpassing love; he talked about them with pride.

He befriended people, offering a complex mixture of compassion, interest, warmth, kindness, and intellectual challenge; people who were lucky enough to be offered that gift will be able to hold onto it. And he reached outside his own world to make those connections; the Jewish world is small, and he could unearth existing relationships and forge new ones.

He was diplomatic but honest in his assessment of the world around him, and had begun to speak out increasingly about what he saw around him. While not allowing himself to be as enmeshed in the daily outrages emanating from Washington as many others of us, still he saw them, and was gearing up to be more and more public in his responses to them. When we lost him, we lost a voice that we could have used. Instead of a voice, there now is a void.

About the Author
Joanne is the editor of the Jewish Standard and lives in Manhattan with her husband and two dogs, so she has firsthand knowledge of two thriving and idiosyncratic Jewish communities. (Actually that's three communities, if you also count the dog people.)
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