Tribute: Albert Reichmann, 93, as eulogized by his son David

Real estate developer Albert Reichmann died Dec. 17 in Toronto. The following remarks were delivered by David Reichmann at his father’s funeral:

You probably think I will talk about the vast sums—millions of dollars—generously given by my father and his brothers. How they taught the world to give charity. 

No, I will talk about the kind of person my father was. 

Aside from being a leader of business, he was a leader for the Jewish community whether it be in Toronto, bringing us cholov yisroel milk, upgrading shechitah, building institutions such as the Kollel Avreichim, and schools and mikvahs. 

He did the same in many cities in North America, Israel, the former Soviet Union and even Tunisia. 

My father led by example. 

He was one of the first in the secular business world to always wear a yarmulke. You would see him walking the streets of Toronto, New York and beyond—or in meetings with world leaders, be it prime ministers, presidents, CEOs or even tyrants—with his large yarmulke, publicly in view.

Even when meeting the leader of the former Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, in the Kremlin, he proudly wore his yarmulke.

I know of a man who saw my father on Russian television in Moscow, meeting with the Russian leaders with his yarmulke so prominently displayed. Then and there he made the decision, if someone can do that, I can become frum. Today, he lives here in Toronto with us with his family.

My father was a model father and husband. 

He wrote the book on how to treat a wife and bestowed respect, love and honour on my mother. He did this when she was a young, vibrant, healthy person, and then at the end, when she was so ill and not even aware of his presence. 

As a child growing up, I remember the fresh cup of coffee and chocolate my father would lovingly prepare and have waiting for me before going to shul at 7 a.m. every morning. 

He was a very busy person and I recall times when he drove his car up the driveway to pick me up at the front door and just zoomed right by me. He would then turn around a minute or two later when he realized I wasn’t in the car. 

Somehow, even though my father was always traveling for business and chesed purposes, I had the feeling that we sat down for family dinner every night of the week. We did lemudei kodesh (Jewish studies) homework nightly. He never missed a Shabbat at home nor a Sunday outing or summer vacation.  I don’t know if this was fact or he just made it feel that way! 

My father was also a father to thousands. I recall a trip to Kiev where we were visiting all the institutions my father helped build. As we were walking away from an orphanage, a TV crew that was tracking our trip asked my father what he thought about this orphanage and the children. “These are my children!” my father responded. 

While he was in the hospital for over six months I was asked what it was like to grow up in the home of such a busy, honourable person—someone respected around the world? My answer: it was very special. He leaves a legacy we must follow. 

My father had respect for all. 

People say “Do as I say, not as I do” My father didn’t say that. He simply did. 

My father had the ultimate respect for his parents, for my mother Egosah, for rabbis, roshei yeshivos, rebbes and every single human being. Men, women and even children all commanded his respect. 

My father went through life believing he was given good health and huge success simply to be able to do and continue to do, and do some more for all Jews around the world. He did big things, but he thought of himself as small. I recall asking him if he would consider becoming the head of the World Jewish Congress. He would have been an amazing leader. This was at a time when you couldn’t open a newspaper without seeing his face or name in it. His answer was “Why me? Who am I?” He truly meant it.