The Death Of A Giant

Rabbi Michael Broyde writes about the passing of Emmanuel Rackman:

Rabbi Emanuel Rackman’s vigorous work and dedication to so many projects, even when he was well into his nineties, gave me reason to hope that his contributions would never cease. I had known of Rabbi Rackman’s ill health for months and still the news of his passing came as a surprise. With Rabbi Rackman’s death, one can say an era has ended.

  As a law student at NYU in the mid-eighties, I had the privilege to work for Rabbi Rackman who, at the time, was Gruss professor of Talmudic Civil Law. We worked together, published a book review together, and ultimately kept in close touch for more than twenty years. Though it may come as a surprise to many, there have been numerous occasions when I have identified myself as a student of Rabbi Rackman’s despite our differing opinions regarding an important matter in Jewish family law.
  Rabbi Rackman’s incredible moral courage and virtue shone brightly in a time and place when it was thought we Jews "ought not make waves" and, more often than not, our battles were judged not worth fighting. He broke through these barriers with his vision of moral courage and natural leadership. I will share with you one particularly apt anecdote as he once relayed it to me:
  In 1951 Rabbi Rackman, a veteran of World War II, was recalled as a chaplain in the Korean War. Shortly thereafter, he discovered his security clearance had been revoked because he opposed the death penalty for accused Soviet spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and supported actor and civil-rights activist Paul Robeson’s right to free speech. The Air Force offered Rabbi Rackman the choice of accepting an honorable discharge – by which he would return home to his family and concede that his security clearance was rightfully revoked – or pursuing a military trial in an effort to clear his name.
  After much consideration, Rabbi Rackman decided to go to trial. Having graduated from Columbia Law School, he chose to act as his own lawyer – and not only successfully cleared himself of all charges but earned his promotion to colonel as well.
  When I asked why he fought so hard, why he willingly undertook the tremendous burden of a military trial, he looked at me matter-of-factly and spoke these words, which to this day I still hold myself accountable:

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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