The Eulogizer: British literary critic, politically active lawyer


JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Eulogizer is a new column (soon-to-be blog) that highlights the life accomplishments of famous and not-so-famous Jews who have passed away recently. Learn about their achievements, honor their memories and celebrate Jewish lives well lived with The Eulogizer. Write to the Eulogizer at Read previous columns here.

British literary critic

John Gross, a literary critic and writer who once was described as "the best-read man in Britain," died Jan. 10 in London at 75.

Gross served as the editor of the Times literary supplement, one of the leading literary journals in the English-speaking world, from 1974 to 1981, and started including bylines on reviews that traditionally had been anonymous. The old practice, he said, "permitted the worst critics, Mr. Puff and Mr. Sneer, to sound like impersonal oracles."

Gross, who had an encyclopedic knowledge of Shakespeare, spent much of the 1980s as a book reviewer and cultural critic for The New York Times before returning to England, where he was the drama critic for the Sunday Telegraph.

His best-known book was "The Rise and Fall of the Man of Letters," which Lionel Trilling called a “brilliant account of English literary culture.” 

Gross was born on London’s East End; his father had immigrated to England in 1913 from Poland. Gross’s  2002 memoir, “A Double Thread: Growing Up English and Jewish in London,” reminisced about a lost world in that part of London, and described, according to The New Yorker, a life in which he played "simultaneous roles in two different plays."

Lawyer, political activist

Arnold Gardner, a high-powered attorney in Buffalo, N.Y., whose activities encompassed the NBA, Democratic Party politics, New York State Board of Regents and Jewish causes, died Dec. 28 at 80.

Described as an “outspoken liberal” in the conservative, in-bred worlds of Buffalo politics and education, Gardner fought for black teachers, school funds, racial balance and community control of schools. His efforts brought him into conflict with city, state and teacher’s union officials.

In Buffalo, Gardner played a key role in the push to allow women to become regular members of the Buffalo Club, an old-time club of powerful local men started in 1867 by President Millard Fillmore.

On a state level, Gardner was a State University of New York trustee and Regents member who challenged tuition increases and raises for the system’s chancellor.

Gardner, a New York City native, graduated from Harvard Law School and served in the U. S. Army judge advocate’s office.

His political activities won him a seat as a delegate to the 1988 Democratic National Convention; one-time Democratic vice presidential nominee Thomas Eagleton was a law school roommate.

As attorney for the Buffalo Braves (now the Los Angeles Clippers) of the National Basketball Association, Gardner was considered for the league commissioner post and was a minority investor in the Seattle Mariners baseball team in 1989.

His Jewish activities included stints as president of Jewish Family Services in Buffalo and Temple Beth Zion, and as a board member of American Jewish Committee and New York Holocaust Memorial Commission. Gardner had honorary doctorates from D’Youville College, SUNY, and awards from NAACP, the Buffalo Urban League, the National Conference of Christians and Jews and the University of Buffalo Law School.

Update: Nazi hunter Tuvia Friedman

The Washington Post ran a lengthy article about Tuvia Friedman, whose passing was noted by The Eulogizer, which quoted extensively and graphically from Friedman’s 1961 memoir about his discoveries while on the trail of Nazis shortly after World War II, and which parsed Friedman’s role in the capture of Adolf Eichmann. Some have said that Friedman overstated his role.

Eli Rosenbaum, a prosecutor with the U.S. Justice Department who has investigated Nazi war crimes cases, told the Post that Friedman was "an indefatigable and sometimes brash or even intemperate voice for justice on behalf of the victims of Nazi inhumanity." Rosenbaum said that but for “constant agitation” of Simon Wiesenthal and Friedman, “it would have been very unlikely that Israel would have launched the operation that resulted in Adolf Eichmann’s apprehension and trial."

Recommended from JTA