In these verses that commemorate Ken Kronberg on the 16th anniversary of his death, I intend to emphasize three things about him:
First: He was a Jew, which was not an easy thing to be in the Labor Committee, riddled as it was with an anti-intellectual, bullying anti-Semitism, practiced with special ferocity by (of course) Lyn, by a coterie of anti-Semitic Jews around him, and by the dolt Helga, who never got over the fact that her homeland Germany lost the war(s) to the Anglo-Americans. Helga did not represent the heights of German education; far from it; she was and is a clod. She exhibited the anti-Semitism characteristic of people who are both stupid and uneducated.
Nevertheless, Ken remained a Jew throughout his years in the Labor Committee, and worked with Jewish colleagues to bring an understanding of Jewish heritage and the Jewish Haskalah to a membership which was mostly steeped in Lyn’s crude anti-Semitism (exemplified by his incessant jokes about circumcision—what a moron he was!)
Second: Ken was a poet, a teacher of poetry, a Shakespeare scholar who directed numerous scenes and full plays; he had to endure increasingly vicious attacks from Tony Papert (of all people), who attacked a class on Shakespeare that Ken and Paul Gallagher were giving in Baltimore (of which Papert said that he had not himself attended any of the classes but knew it was backward, wrong-headed, etc.—after which Lyn, who also, of course, had not attended the class, attacked it until Ken and Gallagher gave way to the obvious and stopped teaching it). At the same time Ken told me he could not/would not any longer edit Fidelio, the culture magazine he had edited since its inception—the idea after Ken died was that Harley Schlanger would take over Ken’s culture work, which was risible—someone finally figured out Harley had no competence in any of those areas, and he wandered off to Germany to become Helga’s enfant terrible (well, certainly terrible, and certainly an infant). Never picked up on any of Ken’s work because he wasn’t qualified.
Things got so bad around the “Shakespeare question” that the American membership had to listen to Helga’s dumb dicta about how Schiller was the much greater poet than Shakespeare—this from a woman who never quite got the hang of the English language and probably never quite got the hang of German either. That such a tin ear was to be the arbiter of great language for the Labor Committee gives you an idea how frightful the intellectual level of the organization.
When Ken died, the NEC member who was supposed to be “his NEC member,” in charge of publications, etc., had the effrontery to write an obituary of Ken never mentioning Shakespeare or Ken’s work on Shakespeare for and with the organization. When I mentioned this to her, she more or less conceded that she did that so as not to piss off Lyn. I then said that if the obituary didn’t mention Ken’s Shakespeare work I would not permit it to run—so she shoehorned it in, in a pathetic side comment.
I am not citing her name because it wasn’t long before Lyn threw her and her husband off the NEC and thus out of the organization, yet one more example of his incapacity for human feeling. It must’ve been a shock to her, because she had spent years worshiping him. I don’t know what she thinks now, since I haven’t spoken to her for 16 years. Our last exchange occurred about the time when she asked if she could give the eulogy at Ken’s funeral and I said no. Then her husband asked if he could be a pallbearer and I said no. First the Labor Committee kills you, then they try to take over your funeral….
Third: Ken was not a Christian, but he had the utmost respect for and interest in Christianity, and understood the profound connection between Christianity and Judaism. Plus he married a Christian, which ultimately became a big No-No in the Labor Committee when Lyn finally figured out that the members who had become practicing Christians no longer saw him as the Savior—quite the reverse.
And so, we have:
First, Kaddish for Ken:
The Mourner’s Kaddish
Kaddish is a 13th-century Aramaic prayer said during every traditional prayer service. Kaddish means ‘sanctification’ in Aramaic and it is related to the Hebrew word Kadosh, which means ‘holy.’
Of the five variations of the Kaddish, the best known is the Mourner’s Kaddish. The prayer never mentions death or dying, but instead proclaims the greatness of God. By reciting it, mourners show that even as their faith is being tested by their loss, they are affirming God’s greatness.
Traditionally, the prayer is said only when there is a minyan, a quorum of 10 Jews. So that one can feel a part of the community even while grieving, the mourner must remain part of the community even as his or her instinct might be to withdraw.
A person mourning a parent says Kaddish 11 months. Historically, Kaddish was said for only 30 days for a child, spouse or sibling; many now say Kaddish for 11 months when in mourning for any family member. Kaddish is also said each year on the anniversary of the death (Yahrzeit) and at Yizkor.
The rhythmic cadences of Kaddish are soothing to us both in mourning and over the years as we say it at Yahrzeit and at Yizkor to remember our loved ones. We say the prayer as a community because none of us is alone in mourning.
Yitgadal v’yitkadash sh’mei raba b’alma di v’ra chir’utei; v’yamlich malchutei b’hayeichon u-v’yomeichon, uv’hayei d’chol beit yisrael, ba-agala u-vi-z’man kariv, v’imru amen.
Y’hei sh’mei raba m’varach l’alam u-l’almei almaya.
Yitbarach v’yishtabah, v’yitpa’ar v’yitromam, v’yitnasei v’yit-hadar, v’yit’aleh v’yit’halal sh’mei d’kudsha, b’rich hu, l’ela min kol birchata v’shirata, tushb’hata v’nehemata, da-amiran b’alma, v’imru amen.
Y’hei sh’lama raba min sh’maya, v’hayim, aleinu v’al koi yisrael, v’imru amen.
Oseh shalom bi-m’romav, hu ya’aseh shalom aleinu v’al kol yisrael, v’imru amen.
Magnified and sanctified is the great name of God throughout the world, which was created according to Divine will. May the rule of peace be established speedily in our time, unto us and unto the entire household of Israel. And let us say: Amen.
May God’s great name be praised throughout all eternity. Glorified and celebrated, lauded and praised, acclaimed and honored, extolled and exalted ever be the name of thy Holy One, far beyond all song and psalm, beyond all hymns of glory which mortals can offer. And let us say: Amen.
May there be abundant peace from heaven, with life’s goodness for us and for all thy people Israel. And let us say: Amen.
May the One who brings peace to the universe bring peace to us and to all the people Israel. And let us say: Amen.
Song: “Fear no more the heat o’ the sun”
(from Cymbeline, written c. 1610)
Fear no more the heat o’ the sun,
Nor the furious winter’s rages;
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta’en thy wages:
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.
Fear no more the frown o’ the great;
Thou art past the tyrant’s stroke;
Care no more to clothe and eat;
To thee the reed is as the oak:
The scepter, learning, physic, must
All follow this, and come to dust.
Fear no more the lightning flash,
Nor the all-dreaded thunder stone;
Fear not slander, censure rash;
Thou hast finished joy and moan:
All lovers young, all lovers must
Consign to thee, and come to dust.
No exorciser harm thee!
Nor no witchcraft charm thee!
Ghost unlaid forbear thee!
Nothing ill come near thee!
Quiet consummation have;
And renownèd be thy grave!
Third, Death and the Christian Promise:
For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.
He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to Him all are alive.
1 Thessalonians 5:10
He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with Him.