I would like to dedicate this article to my brother who passed away last week, and share with you a glimpse and some insight into the legacy of Howard I. Rhine, Chaim Yisroel, a”h.
Howard was 18 years older than me. He started Yeshiva University around the time I was born. Over the years, that age gap narrowed to develop into a special brother relationship. His sometimes-fatherly ways always came from a place of love.
As my wife Carol accurately describes him, Howard was larger than life. He truly lived a full life. He was a devoted husband to Miriam, a loving father to Keith & Rina, Wendy & David, Gregory & Lara, a wonderful grandfather and great-grandfather, caring brother to Mimi & Danny and myself & Carol, a dedicated son to our parents, Jessie a”h and Lester a”h, and an all-around true family man. He was also a beloved uncle to our children Jessica & Stew, Jennifer & Dovi, Kevin & Kira and their families, and he never missed a family simchah. From my perspective though, he was the best brother one could ever ask for.
Growing up, Howard was always there for me, and when I married Carol and we started our family, he was always there for us. Through the ups and the downs, the good and difficult times, Howard always knew the right thing to say, the right way to guide and the right thing to do.
Howard possessed great athletic abilities and a love of sports. He was a star basketball player at the Yeshivah of Flatbush High School and was the captain of the Yeshivah University Fencing team. Later on, he was an avid spectator, and attended many of the games I coached throughout the years. You would know when Howard was in the stands loudly cheering on my teams. He was an exceptional swimmer and served as Head of the Waterfront in camp. He also taught me how to swim.
It was an amazing experience to partner with Howard in the Flatbush Doubles Tennis League, where most of the players were his age and he took me under his wing. After a couple of average seasons, we finally won the Championship and we were both so excited to celebrate our success together.
For the most part, we rooted for the same professional teams, the Knicks and the Mets; however, we parted ways when it came to the NFL, as he was a devoted Giants fan, while I was a J-E-T-S fan. We would often kibitz each other throughout the years regarding their respective challenging and successful seasons.
When I attended Yeshiva University, I commuted every day from Flatbush. I had the privilege to drive Howard to his office in Manhattan in the morning, (stopping to buy three large cups of black coffee for him), and pick him up at night on the way home.
Both on the court and in the courtroom as a prominent attorney, he was a success. Howard was extremely bright and had a very sharp mind. He was a fierce competitor, truly a powerhouse, yet always showed respect for the other side.
One of his great achievements was being one of the founders of the National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs (COLPA). This was an organization that was comprised of lawyers who volunteered their time and expertise for the defense of Orthodox Jews facing discrimination in their workplace and other aspects of Jewish life. I remember going with my parents to hear Howard speak on several occasions in various venues about the importance of COLPA and raising awareness for its cause.
Some years back, there was a commercial that ended, “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen.” When Howard would walk into a room, you knew he was there even before he spoke. His presence was felt by all. He was a dynamic speaker with a true gift and unique style in expressing his beliefs passionately. And who could ever forget his charismatic smile and laugh?
Howard’s legendary devotion to the State of Israel, especially the IDF, was exemplary. One of his most treasured projects was the IDF cards with the Prayer for the Chayalim that he directed and produced through the OU. He introduced Carol and me to the Yashar LaChayal organization, “Straight to the Soldiers.” From that meeting, we created the annual Yashar LaChayal Hoops for Heroes Yeshiva Day School Boys and Girls Basketball Tournaments, with over 20 school teams and over 300 participating student athletes. During one of my visits to him in the hospital, I showed him the video of last year’s event and he was so happy and had tears of joy in his eyes. He took great pride and interest in many of our accomplishments, especially MVP.
Learning Torah was a key ingredient in Howard’s life. When we were still living in Flatbush, before we moved to West Hempstead, Howard started a Gemara shiur on Shabbos afternoon with his friends and made sure to include me to be part of the shiur. Growing up and davening together in the Young Israel of Flatbush, I fondly remember sitting in between him and my father. Howard and I both shared a disciplined commitment for davening with a minyan whenever and wherever we each happened to be at the time.
During the week of shiva, I heard from many people from near and far, both young and old, describe their unique memories and experiences with Howard. Each time I heard something new about Howard that I was not aware of, I was extremely gratified and overwhelmed with pride as to the impact Howard had on so many lives. I spoke with many whom they themselves were so distraught and affected by his passing, and, at the same time, were trying to comfort me. Howard transcended generations and made lasting impressions on my friends as well. To most he was Howie, to us he was Howard. To everyone, he had a shem tov.
Howard accomplished so much in his life, and yet he had so much more to give. He was a vibrant and incredible individual, and he made his mark on society as a leader and protector of Klal Yisroel. He was tough on the outside, yet soft on the inside - firm, principled and opinionated, yet loving, respectful and sincerely respected.
There is a huge void. He was a giant. I shoulder the responsibility to continue to make him proud. I loved him and will miss him dearly.
He was my mentor, advisor, confidante, role model, hero, advocate, and so much more. I always looked up to him, admired him, and was so proud to be his brother.
May Howard be a maletz yosher for our family and for the whole Jewish world.