Community advocate, Bronx attorney, and spiritual leader of Temple Hatikva, Rabbi Harry Hertzberg passed away on March 16, at the age of 62.
Hertzberg began his lifelong devotion to improving the lives of others in his teen years when he founded the Environment Action Committee of Co-op City, successfully leading the fight to close the Pelham Bay landfill in 1978, serving as chair from 1969 to 1986. He also was one of the founders of Services for Youth, for which he was the executive director from 1970 through 1994. He served as chief-of-staff for Assemblyman Alan Hochberg throughout his terms, from 1970 to 1976. Subsequently he went to Brooklyn Law School, where he graduated in 1980.
He worked throughout his 20s as a youth services director in several synagogues, including the Community Center of Israel in the Pelham Parkway area and Howard Beach Jewish Center. In 1989 he began to practice as an attorney, and in 1993 he established his practice at 1526 Williamsbridge Road. At the same time, he was the pro bono attorney for ARC XVI Fort Washington Inc., keeping his hand in the non-profit world, this time supporting seniors. In 1998 he also became pro bono attorney for the Ranachqua Foundation, an organization supporting boy scouts of the Bronx. He joined its board of directors the following year, serving until the time of his death.
Producer, correspondent and chief restaurant critic for WVOX-AM and WRTN-FM radio stations from 1972 to 1983, he returned to the microphone at WVOX-AM, in 2012, as host of ‘The Bronx Report,’ a weekly half-hour interview show highlighting good things happening in the Bronx. He also reentered the political arena that year, becoming legal counsel to the Liberty Democratic Association of the 80th Assembly District.
A frequent visitor to Israel, Rabbi Harry made a special trip there in the summer of 2006. His purpose was to visit soldiers from the Israeli Defense Forces hospitalized after the second Lebanon War to thank the soldiers for their heroism and courage, bringing with him donated gifts he had solicited from local New York City businesses.
While continuing his law practice, he eventually pursued a life-long dream and was ordained a rabbi in 2005. A strong believer in the importance of keeping a house of prayer to service the religious needs of disenfranchised and unaffiliated Jewish residents of the Pelham Parkway area and surrounding communities, Rabbi Hertzberg founded and led the development of Temple Hatikva, serving pro bono, when the Community Center of Israel closed its doors in 2010.
While originally holding services in the former CCI building, Temple Hatikva relocated last year. Its services, events and adult education sessions are now held in Bronx House, at 990 Pelham Parkway South.’Rabbi Harry’ stated on the temple’s website “that Judaism is an all-inclusive religion” and Temple Hatikva “strives to service all those that desire a connection with Judaism.”
His dedication to keeping ‘Yiddishkeit’ in the area was evidenced by his insistence that membership dues be kept low and that there would never be a charge for attending High Holiday services. His staunch support of Israel, sense of humor, passionate sermons, flair for publicity, and unusual themes and varied activities attracted a growing congregation of which he was very proud.
Cantor Kyle Cherry said, “Rabbi Harry was a strong force in building our Temple Hatikva congregation from the ground up. He will be greatly missed. His dedication will inspire us to continue serving the community with monthly services and innovative programs, with the same spirit he showed us. ”
In 1980, he married Fern Goldstein. In 1990, they adopted Anna. Harry remarried in 2002, to Sandra Tenzer,, adding a step-daughter, Alyssa Tucker, into his circle. That same year he was blessed with granddaughter, Lili Belle Hertzberg. It was always important to him that he be surrounded by his family at special occasions.
Hertzberg was also a proud graduate of the Bronx High School of Science and Queens College and a staunch supporter of Israel and Judaism.