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To explain why there haven’t been any posts recently, on Thursday March 26, 2009, my father Howard Greenspan, aka “Prof” – or most accurately, Tzvi Mordechai ben Avrum – passed away unexpectedly.

My father was not an ordinary guy by any means. Anyone who knew him knows that he was a brilliant and eccentric genius. His life was full of numerous career changes – from magician, to artist, to film maker, to architect, to computer salesman, to Super Mario video game developer, to media consultant for the discovery channel, and finally, to retail website designer/administrator – demonstrating just how versatile his mind, interests and capablities were.  This is just the list I can come up with off the top of my head, there were many more. He was also an activist in his “spare time”, being involved in litigation for years with the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, suing them regarding anti-Trust law violations (to be honest I was too young when it happened to really understand the issues), as well as constantly keeping in touch with and watching over high profile journalists and bloggers reporting on the mid-east conflict. Always an innovator ahead of his time, he was quoted in Time Magazine twice saying eerily prophetic statements.

Aside from all these interests and accomplishments, more importantly, as any of his family members can attest, he lived his life with complete dedication to his loved ones. Many people who have such a unique mind, skilled in so many different different technical and academic disciplines – as someone once described, a renaissance man –  often lack this most important trait, but my father was in fact driven by it. Everything he did, he did it to ensure that my mother, my brother and I would be able to live worry-free, not for personal gain, and not as they say ‘for art’s sake’.

I’ve been putting this post off since it happened because I don’t think any words I could write could do him any justice. It’s too personal for me, and my writing skills are not suited for the task. So instead of continuing to try and write some sort of memorial, I am going to share an e-mail he wrote the day before his passing that at least to me, sums up my father and puts his death into perspective.

He was involved in an argument via e-mail and phone with former CIA operative Duane Clarridge.

Duane, a right wing fellow, had sent my father an e-mail earlier in the week stating among other things, the following:

The world owes the Jews recognition for what has been perpetrated against them by the Nazis, but and I mean but the Jews have not acknowledged or less atoned for the atrocities that Jewish dominated regimes in the Soviet Union, Poland, Rumania, etc committed since 1917.

In the greater context of the e-mail, what he was basically saying is that just as back then (in his view) the Jews were ruining the free world, so too now, with Jews making up a substantial portion of Obama’s cabinet, they are also now destroying the free world and they have to ‘atone’ for this – whatever that means.

This infuriated and scared my father. While the left is actively condemning Israel, and practicing their own masked form of anti-Semitism, it appears that on the right too, the Jews do not have any friends. The future looks grim for the Jewish people.

My father tried to make a distinction to Duane between Jews who practice Judaism and Jews who are Jewish but don’t actually live according to Torah, and demonstrate that those are practicing Judaism are part of the solution to the problem, and that the non-practicing Jews who are part of the problem should not be judged as Jews, but rather simply as liberals who happen to be Jewish. But Duane remained averse to accepting this distinction. A Jew is a Jew is a Jew, and just as in the past Jews were only asked to atone for their sins and never rewarded for their accomplishments, our present day is no different. The right only acknowledges a Jew’s actions as being ‘Jewish’ when it is harmful.

And this is where the final e-mail comes in. Duane sent my father an article about extreme leftism that is happening on campus, and how it is being run by Jews. He claimed that “once again it is going to be the mees [ie. the white, Christian Conservatives] not the Jews” who fix the problem. My father wrote the following response after a discussion with me about just how off the mark Duane was considering at York University the only people sticking up the extreme left on campus – which admittedly contains Jews, but again, only a minimal minority – are the Jewish students. As mentioned above, he wrote this e-mail the day before his passing:

Duane:

Thank you for your email.  This reply is personal – me to you – not
for publication or distribution, and brief (I will reply at greater
length when I have more than a moment), but I ask that you take the time to read it in full, and consider it.

The question you pose is important – who will deal with this.

The conclusion you reach – if I read it correctly – is that it is the
‘mees’ (I assume you mean the “me’s” – meaning yourself) who will have to deal with this.

I tell you respectfully that we are probably both reaching an age
where we can easily fall prey to an occupational hazard – one we
easily once recognized in others, but which is much harder to
self-diagnose – namely, the conceit of old men.

It is something that is, unfortunately, the well-intentioned result of
a life of experience.

And just as unfortunately, it can lead to gross errors of perception,
which, as a seasoned analyst, I am sure you are aware, can result in gross errors of action.

No DAX – it not YOU – who are going to deal with this.  And it not
myself.  As much as we might like to, and as much as we might think WE can, or you might think YOU can, it is not a problem we can solve
except using blunt instruments that might result in unintended
consequences as bad as what we are trying solve.

And, although it may not be a problem we can solve (as much as we
might like to earnestly think WE can), it is one that wizened
experienced ones – of our age group – allowed to happen.

How did we do that?

We did it by, as a generation (if we refuse to accept personal
responsibility although that is in order) by allowing the education of
younger generations to be handed to ‘experts’ – ‘learned’ and often
unequipped even bitter individuals who ensconced themselves in
instituions which we allowed to exert an ever-greater influence over
people whose future was entrusted to us – the generations that follow us.

We may have created an imperfect world (although I think on balance it was a good one) – but our grave error was in not paying greater attention to WHO we were entrusting our youngsters to for many hours a day.

But I know people who ARE dealing with the problem.  They are equipped to deal with problem.  They do not have the conceit to think it a sure thing they can solve it – they know how difficult the task is.  And they are not doing it for personal reward – other than the reward of making the world livable – a world in which a person believes that what he can control is himself – not others.

They are bright, they are hard-working, and they may be indistinguishable in moral quality from the people you once knew when you were their age.

They counter the spew of mindless propaganda and demonstrations you describe, incident for incident, strategically and tactically seeking to gain the upper hand by anticipating the next move and drawing up an action plan to turn in on itself.

They are fighting this war of information and belief with the tools it
demands, and asking nothing return except a world that makes sense, according to something other than than the principles of fools.

And it has been pointed out to me, in regards to suggestions I might offer as to how to approach things, that many of the magic bullet approaches have ‘unintended consequences’ which will create a situation as bad – or worse – than the problem it sought to solve.

You would probably be surprised, in view of the statements you have made, how I know this individual.

But I would suggest that many of your broader statements, and the
sweeping judgements you make with alacrity, are wide of the mark.

to be continued

to be continued.

My father’s response shows just how humble, caring, and intelligent he really was. It also shows how much he believes in the Israel activism and torah outreach that my community and I have been involved in. I do not believe it is a coincidence that my father wrote hours before his passing that he only has a ‘moment’, that this is the last thing I ever spoke to him about, and that he wrote ‘to be continued’. This is an ethical will from my father, directed to the entire Jewish people. I think any Jewish person reading this should take his words to heart, and contemplate if you are a part of those he refers to as “fixing the problem”. And if you’re not, then try and figure out how you can become one. As Dax has demonstrated to us, nobody is fixing the problem for us, and if you are not a part of the solution, then you are by default a part of the problem and will be forced to ‘atone’.

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10 Responses to “The Passing of My Father, Howard M. Greenspan”

  1. Josephine says:

    I’m very sorry for your loss. Your father sounds like an exceptional man.

  2. Gubu World says:

    Mike

    You have my deepest sympathies on the passing of your father. It appears he was a very kind and intelligent man. His exchanges with Duane clearly illustrate this. I wish I could do more other than offer sincere condolences.

    Ted

  3. Yulia says:

    Mike,
    Despite what you say, your writing skills are quite intact and you were able to portray your father in a clear manner for someone who’s never met him. He sounds like a great and humble man and I’m impressed with his level of involvement. I can now see where you got those qualities from 🙂
    Once again I am very sorry about your loss.
    Yulia

  4. Ilan Mann says:

    Strong words and a powerful call to action from two brilliant generations of the family Greenspan.

    It certainly hit home with me.

    – Ilan

  5. Eric says:

    I was deeply saddened to hear about the death of your father and I think its great that you put this together… and you did just that… you gave him justice.

  6. Shaina says:

    I was your father’s account rep for his math style website…i processed all his pi orders :)….we probably talked just about every day….he’d call just to say hi….or tell me something funny about politics…then he stopped calling…i tried to call him a couple times…because i knew my buddy wouldn’t have just stopped calling me….i tried to call him yesterday morning…no answer….and then his brother called me yesterday afternoon to tell me the sad news….i cried….i’m so sorry for your loss….howard was a brilliant man, with crazy but great ideas….and i miss his random calls and jokes….and just his way about him.

  7. Judy says:

    My teary daughter announced to me on this past Friday when I picked her up from work that a client had passed. A man named Howard Greenspan from Canada had suddenly passed away. Was this someone you knew well out of all the 100’s of accounts you cover I asked her? Yes, she said he was different. For about a year Howard called her every day or so just to say hello and chat about really mundane things. At first I, the typical protective mother, replied if he had a family or anything, not trying to sound too leary. Oh yah, a wife and family whom he always talked about. He used to make me laugh and thought he just wanted to talk with someone. It sounds like to me I said that you were being kind hearted and so was he in this often cold and cynical world. Yah, she replied, he didn’t call for a long time. I had a sinking feeling someone was wrong so called his business line and got no response. A brother later called back and matterly of factly said that Howard was dead sending a shockwave through her and others connected to the business she works for. No one had a clue.
    She later discovered through this blog who Howard was indeed. I am proud of my daughter who took the time out of her business life to have compassion for someone she had never met, a kind soul in the earth sharing moments of hearty conversation. The moral to this story…………..a Jew and a Christian, countries apart had become friends……….perhaps more of us could make an effort to bless each other and get along. Our condolences in your loss.

  8. Duane Clarridge says:

    Sir, I am most sadden by your father’s passing, for he was helpful to me and I admired his thinking. Although our last exchange of messages was less felicitious than usual, we seem to be talking by each other, particulalry as to definitions of terms. Contrary to much of what you write and we can discuss it in detail if you wish, I did not reject his definitions of Jews – ie Jews and the Jews following the Torah. I am not erudite enough to contest anything on the subject. But fellow understand something very clearly if you wish to get into a further exchane with me on the subject you badly discuss in your article, I am an expert on the Jewish Khazars, the Russian revolution, the Soviet various secret police, the Soviet spies who did in the USG on the atom bomb and other things, the Soviet takeover of Eastern Europe and on and on. You may not know it fellow, but it was a near run event whether when Israel became a State whether it would look for support from the Soviet Union or the US. I am a graduate of the Russian Institute at Columbia so don’t take me for a fool. You deal with me with facts not feelings. Case in point your father did not know that Lenin’s chief killer and founder of the Cheka, Felix Dzerzhinsky, was a Polish Jew. My mistake was that I used the word “atone” which obviously had special meaning for your father not me. My point was that Jews whether of your father’s definition or mine have done much to hurt people and countries trying to help them and the Jewish leadership has never stepped up to acknowledge the fact. That Jews have not received credit for their accomplishments is nonsense. Look at the Nobel Prizes. That they are not labelled Jews but by nationality should have pleased your father or maybe not. If you want to debate this further, pls advise but pull up your socks because I don’t take prisoners and anyone can tell you. Dewey Clarridge

  9. adam berel wetstein says:

    Mike it has now been a year please send my heart felt memories to your uncle brian

  10. Robert Glover says:

    Through this page I have just discovered that my university friend and class mate Howard Greenspan passed away just over a year ago. Although I hadn’t seen Howard for years, I really am saddened by this discovery and want to offer you, your mother and your family my condolences. As a young student at the Faculty of Architecture Howard was an absolutely amazing force of intellect and energy who just never fit into the boxes. He burst them; he overflowed them. He is a loss for everyone. Robert Glover

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