“I knew Rabbi Hirsch (“Dick”) for over forty years, but although our professional paths were deeply intertwined, our relationship was more personal than professional. I imagine that many colleagues felt that way; Dick’s special power was collecting people and making each one of us feel like we were intimately connected. I was blessed to be among those he embraced with warmth and friendship.
Rabbi Hirsch and my uncle, Julian Feldman z”l (Executive Director of Washington Hebrew Congregation for many years), were good friends. So when I got to Jerusalem for my first year of rabbinical school in 1980, Dick made a point of looking out for me and taking me under his wing. There was no ‘awe and trembling’ around him, despite his legendary role; though I was just a young rabbinical student at the time, he treated me as a family friend, colleague, and fellow traveler on a leadership journey. He was always happy to share his wisdom and insights, yet just as happy to catch up on family matters. Whenever our paths crossed since that time, no matter how many years had passed, each conversation picked up where the prior one ended. I became an extension of his and Julian’s friendship and he never failed to ask about the family, remembering each of my cousins (Julian’s kids) by name, and recalling details about each one.”
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Rabbi Marla J. Feldman | WRJ Executive Director
“On the 16th of August 2021 we were expected to land in Florida for our yearly visit with Rabbi Dick Hirsch. Since our retirement: mine from Kamatz (my congregation in Mevasseret Zion), and Menachem from KKL (Jewish National Fund), we have been privileged to serve as Summer Rabbi and lay cantor at Temple B’nai Israel in Petoskey Michigan. This allowed us a yearly visit in Florida with our loved teacher and mentor Rabbi Hirsch and his wise and pragmatic partner Bella.
A couple of years ago, when Bella was already sick, we took them out for coffee in town. Bella was complaining about being away from Yerushalaim and was making jokes about Dick.”
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Menachem Leibovich and Rabbi Maya Leibovich
“I didn’t know Rabbi Richard (Dick) Hirsch (z”l) very well, but whenever he saw me at one of the WUPJ, WZO or Arzenu conferences, usually taking photos of everyone and everything, he was always happy to chat and share his life experiences and more – as was Bella.
When he found out I was from South Africa, he regaled me with stories from the trip he and Bella took to see the country and visit the Progressive shuls there, and he would ask me how Progressive Judaism and the communities were doing and what was happening. He always showed an interest in what I was doing in Israel, whether for the World Union, Arzenu or my other clients, and what I had done in South Africa.
He and Bella always had so many interesting and fascinating stories and it was always a pleasure to hear them talk about their lives. Going through all my photos from many of the events I attended for the international movement made me nostalgic and sad that they were no longer around to share their stories, but happy and honored to have had the privilege of meeting such a wonderful couple, and to have heard Rabbi Hirsch speak at many of the events.
Rabbi Hirsch, you will be missed.”
The only way I know how to pay tribute to this giant of a man is through the photos I took of him alone or with others, most of them from two very special Arzenu events – the 30th birthday in June 2010 and the farewell party of Joan Garson when she stepped down as chair of Arzenu in June 2014 – but there are others as well. I can only show a few photos here, so if any of his family or friends would like to see more, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.