My eulogy for Governor Marvin Mandel


We are gathered here today: people from all walks of life and from all parts of the state: The powerful and the mighty, along with the simple and the common folk. The leaders, movers and shakers of our state are all here, as are the humble everyday citizens who loved and elected Marvin Mandel to every office he aspired to hold. We have come to honor, and to lay to rest our beloved Governor Marvin Mandel, Moshe ben Elky.

We come to pay tribute to him, to recognize an extraordinary man who lived an extraordinary life, a life of tremendous accomplishment. And we are here to say thanks – thanks for all that he did on behalf of the people of the State he loved so dearly.

Some 2,000 years ago the ancient Jewish sage Ben Sira wrote words which seem so appropriate today. He wrote:

Let us now praise distinguished leaders, those who came before us. They are a great glory to Adonai, the God who created them, for their lives proclaim the Lord’s majesty.

They were honored in their generation, and were a source of pride in their times. Some have left a name so that all declare their praise, while there are those who go unremembered.

Not so our leaders whose good deeds will not be forgotten. Their posterity shall endure forever, and their glory will not be blotted out. People will recall and recount their wisdom, and the congregation will sing their praise.

And so today we recall and recount the wisdom, the career and the enduring impact of Marvin Mandel, the 56th Governor of the State of Maryland.

Growing up in Pikesville as I did, I recall the pride that we in the Jewish community took as one of our own climbed the ladder in Maryland state government, becoming the head of a powerful committee in the House of Delegates, then elected as Speaker of House of Delegates, subsequently becoming Governor, and even serving in a national role as head of the Democratic Governors’ Association.   We were proud of his meeting David ben Gurion and for solidifying our state’s relations with the State of Israel.

With his uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time, coupled with his sharp political instincts and keen intellect, he shattered ceilings and helped to forge a path which allowed members of the Jewish community to realize that we could fully participate in government. It was therefore no surprise therefore that as Governor he saw to it that opportunities were offered to women and blacks, that thresholds were lowered, barriers removed and doors opened for all.

I stand here not only as a rabbi, but as someone whose mother’s life was saved because Marvin Mandel had the vision and the ability to steer through the legislature the bill to create the Shock Trauma Unit at the University of Maryland Hospital. And I am also here as someone who worked with Governor Mandel when I was the student liaison to the state government in the early 1970’s at a time when there was rioting on the College Park campus.

From these and other associations and connections, I speak on behalf of all who were the beneficiaries of all that Governor Mandel did for us when I say that Marvin Mandel left a lasting legacy. He did what he did because he truly cared about the safety and welfare of all and sought to use the instrument of government to better the lives of all the citizens. This is how he will be judged and this is how he will be remembered. For the true measure of a man is not what position he achieves, but what he does with the positon he attains. And as we will hear today, he did much for many.

As we all know, Marvin was not very tall. (I had jokingly said at his 90th that maybe that was why he looked out for the little guy.) Yet despite his stature, he cast a giant shadow.

Pirke Avot, The Sayings of the Sages, from the Talmud tells us of the importance of having the courage of one’s convictions. It tells us: “Bamakom she’ein anashim, histadel lehiyot ish: In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man” – which I paraphrased at the celebration on his 95th birthday, in the case of our beloved Governor, “In a place where there are no men, strive to be a Mandel.”

Rabbinic literature says that a man does not pursue leadership. Rather, leadership pursues the man. This was the case with Marvin Mandel.

Psalm 72, a psalm about leadership reads:

אֱלֹהִים–מִשְׁפָּטֶיךָ, לְמֶלֶךְ תֵּן; וְצִדְקָתְךָ לְבֶן-מֶלֶךְ

O God, endow the king with Your judgments, that he may judge Your people rightly…

Let him champion the lowly among the people, and deliver the needy folk…

He saves the needy who cry out, the lowly who have no helper.

For he cares about the poor and the needy…

Let prayers for him be said always, blessings on him invoked at all times…

May his name be eternal…let men invoke his blessedness upon themselves…

Blessed is the Lord God, God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things.

בָּרוּךְ, יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים–אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל:    עֹשֵׂה נִפְלָאוֹת לְבַדּו וּבָרוּךְ, שֵׁם כְּבוֹדוֹ–    לְעוֹלָם ֹ

We will hear from some of his colleagues and friends, those who worked closely with him and who witnessed up close his acumen and skills, his ability to get things done, and then from family members who will share the more private side we may not have not known. In addition to all that he accomplished for so many, the feelings of deep loyalty he engendered and of the lasting and abiding friendships he had tell us a great deal about the kind of person he was.

And so it is time to bid farewell and lay to rest an enigmatic man — naturally shy, but who took on the most public of roles and for whom so much of his life was played out in public. A man who had a brilliant mind, who knew how to get things done, and who did so much to improve our state and our world.

Into your care O God we entrust the soul of Marvin Mandel.

Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt is rabbi of Congregation B’nai Tzedek in Potomac.
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