Eugen Gluck, of blessed memory, was a gift from heaven. He was a giant among mere mortals. He was first and foremost a righteous man. He was no doubt one of a kind. He was beyond unique. If there was an exemplary human being on Planet Earth to model oneself after or aspire to become, it would be Eugen Gluck. He set the bar extremely high and taught anyone who met him or knew him what was expected of us in our lifetimes.
He was remarkable in so many ways that I could never do justice by writing mere words. Eugen Gluck was an experience unto itself. He was truly larger than life both in his exuberant, magnanimous personality and his fine, warm, sweet, and upright character. He made everyone feel welcome and worth a million. He was loved by all and he loved everybody.
His love and passion for Eretz Yisrael was legendary and unsurpassed. He built Bet El, which is now home to over 10,000. His Bet El Dinners, which he gave everything of himself for, were monumental, as he would like to say, “the largest crowd of any dinner anywhere.” He would bring out 1,200 to 1,500 people each and every year for 36 years. He was very proud, and rightfully so, of the number of participants. I had the privilege of working with Eugen and his team on a number of his dinners. To this day I don’t know how he did it. It is very hard to believe that On December 3, 2018, Eugen organized his last dinner. It was a fitting tribute to his beloved wife, Jean, z”l, who had passed away earlier in the year. It featured Speaker of the Knesset Yuli Edelstein, Congressman Chris Smith, and Fox and Friends Host Pete Hegseth. We all thought Eugen would continue to make these incredible dinners possible for many more years. There was never a thought that he might not be able to make another dinner on the first Sunday of December 2019. It was unfathomable. He was so full of energy and life it never dawned on me that he would not be greeting me with that unbelievable hug, pinch on the cheek, and inimitable hello. I spoke to him in mid-July before I went with Mike Huckabee to Israel. He featured Mike Huckabee at his dinners on Dec. 6, 2010, Dec. 18, 2014, and again on Dec. 6, 2015. He also supported him in his brief run for the White House in 2016. Eugen was ecstatic that President Trump won the election. As a matter of fact, he constantly asked me if he really had a chance during the campaign and I told him I always thought he could win. I told him that I did not think G-d Almighty would go to the trouble of President Trump defeating 17 other Republican candidates to lose in the general election.
He always encouraged everyone he met to fulfill their potential. He featured Ambassador John Bolton at the Bet El Dinner on Dec.5, 2016, and again on Dec. 6, 2017. He always thought Ambassador Bolton would rise up the ranks of government. Of course, this is indeed what happened. Ambassador Bolton is now National Security Advisor. Eugen knew how to call them. When Benjamin Netanyahu keynoted one of the Bet El Dinners in the ‘90s, Eugen said he would become prime minister. In May of 1996 Benjamin Netanyahu indeed became prime minister for the first time. Eugen had a knack for predicting the future. It was obviously one of the reasons he succeeded to such a degree in business. Despite his wealth he remained modest and always accessible. He was a great supporter of so many worthy projects. He was best known for his founding and funding of the Bet El Institutions and Arutz Sheva (Israel National News). Yaakov Katz (Katzele) was his closest and dearest associate. Together they changed Israel forever. They were a dynamic duo. I fully appreciate all of the time I spent in their midst. It was such a privilege and honor. Everyone felt the same.
Eugen supported so many worthy causes, including those I was associated with, including American Friends of Ateret Cohanim, National Council of Young Israel, Young Israel Chovevei Zion, and the Israel Day Concert in Central Park. His support of the Young Israel of Forest Hills, Yad Vashem, Shaare Zedek, the Great Synagogue, and so many other incredible institutions is extraordinary.
He was born a Satmar chasid, survived several concentration camps, and became the world’s greatest Zionist. He accomplished in life what very few ever do and always did it with a smile and a pleasant word.
I last saw Eugen at the shivah for Ambassador David Friedman’s mother. He was his old self but had lost weight. He tapped me on the shoulder and gave me a glowing and beautiful hello. It was invigorating. Ever since his beloved wife, Jean z”l, passed away a little over a year ago, Eugen was clearly affected but maintained the highest level, still going to work every day.
Two weeks ago, a friend of mine spoke to him at my urging about a Chazaq event to help the shidduch crisis. He was as sharp as ever and made sure to offer his support and blessings. His passing came as a shock. We will all sorely miss this giant of a man who affected so many. The Jewish people lost one of their lamed-vavniks. The family should know of no further sorrow. May they be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.
Joseph M. Frager is a physician and lifelong activist.