By: Commentator Staff  | 

School Officials Echo Grief Of Nation At Death Of President Roosevelt (Vol. 10, Issue 9)

Dr. Samuel Belkin 

President, Yeshiva and Yeshiva College 

With the death of our distinguished President, America lost its greatest leader and the World its greatest humanitarian. He was truly not only the first citizen of our republic but of the entire world. He was a staunch advocate of feedom, a warrior for the free spirit, and a champion of the religious aspiration of mankind. His magnetic and dynamic personality, his sterling character and above all his profound vision will be remembered and cherished by freedom-loving people for many centuries to come.

Our generation will be recorded in history as the most unfortunate because it produced a tyrant like Hitler, but at the same time as the most fortunate because it also produced a man like our late President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt who could meet the challenge of his time.

World Jewry with other suffering and persecuted people will mourn the loss of the most pre-eminent liberal spirit of our age—may his memory be blessed.


Dr. Pinchos Churgin 

Dean, Teachers’ Institute 

The loss of President Roosevelt will be felt for long years to come. He was taken away from us at one of the most critical moments in the history of human civilization. His idealism, his vision, his courage and his faith will not be present at the time when they are most needed in the reshaping of humanity's destiny.

Roosevelt was the only leader of world stature who voiced, in times of moral turmoil and spiritual discomfiture, sentiments of humanity's most exalted passions and aspirations. He, out of all the leaders of nations, warned against the storms that were gathering to attack every noble foundation of human society. He, out of all heads of governments, dared to remind the world of the higher principles of human freedom, justice and dignity which were in jeopardy of annihilation while national leaders of other nations were absorbed in their own narrow, selfish interests. Even while attacked by a mortal enemy, Roosevelt made the ideal of a safer, better, juster world the keystone of this bloodiest struggle among nations.

He was famed as a statesman and politician, but he conducted his great skills, not for narrow nationalistic designs, but for the attainment of an ideal of life which humanity in its deepest recesses sought to reach, but to which statesmen and politicians blocked the road. He had to master great powers to conduct the struggle against enslavement by a brutal enemy and to reawaken humanity to its higher tasks. He succumbed. It was too great a struggle for his body. His spirit was too strong for his physical substance.

While alive he was attacked. He was suspected. He was railed. His intentions and his ideals were distorted. Life, as usually happens, darkens even the sun itself. Human emotions which form it breed a distrust of the noblest of human urge. Dead, Roosevelt's real stature will shine forth as the embodiment of a struggle for a human society decreed by G-d and proclaimed by His prophets and the hope for its final triumph.


Dr. Moses L. Isaacs 

Dean, Yeshiva College 

The loss of our country’s president has stunned the faculty and student body of Yeshiva College and has left us in deep mourning. He was to us a forceful and guiding example of a man who lived to better the lot of his fellow man, but even in death his inspiration will continue to lead us.


Dr. Alexander Litman 

Professor of Philosophy 

The whole world mourns the sudden passing of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It mourns because Roosevelt while President of the United States was the protagonist of the rights of all men everywhere. He was and forever will remain the guiding light of man’s journey to a nobler life. In his unflinching opposition to tyranny and oppression, in his unyielding rejection of the view that the common man exists for the benefit of the few, he transformed despair into hope and gave direction to human aspirations.

We who are stunned by his passing must rededicate ourselves to carry on the struggle which he so selflessly and so wholeheartedly led. For the Four Freedoms which he so valiantly and determinedly championed are the epithets of man as a human being.


Dr. Bernard Floch 

Prof. of Latin and Greek

To a European, Roosevelt was Not only the usual type of statesman but the bright symbol of progress and humanity on a dark continent. My first feeling on arriving in this country was that this is the land of President Roosevelt. In my five years in America my admiration grew steadily from day to day, particularly for his sympathy with our suffering people. The way that he and his beloved wife gave us comfort in our darkest hours deeply affected me.

The following is a quotation from Cicero that might express the views of a scholar who has devoted his lifetime to the investigation of the relative and absolute significance of ancient culture:

“Just as laws for the common welfare take more than the welfare of the individual into consideration, so an outstanding man is wise and obedient to the laws, a man who is cognizant of the duties of public office takes care rather for the benefit of all than for his own interest; and hence it is obvious that that man must be extolled who is ready to face death for the sake of the commonwealth, since it is proper and fitting to love one's homeland more than oneself.”


Dr. Alexander Brody 

Professor of History

A century ago, an American religious thinker thus suggests the life and personality of President


“There are seasons in human affairs of inward and outward revolution, when new depths seem to be broken up in the soul, when new wants are unfolded in multitudes, and a new and undefined Good are thirsted for. There are periods when the principles of experience need to be modified. When hope and trust and instinct claim a share with prudence in the guidance of affairs, when in truth, to dare is the highest wisdom.” (W. H. Channing)

The life and leadership of FDR best expressed the mission of America and the rhythm of American life. He was heir to the funded capital of American experience, He combined the intellectualism of Jefferson, the idealism of Wilson, the zeal of Theodore Roosevelt, and the humanity of Lincoln.


Rabbi Dr. Leo Jung 

Professor of Ethics 

Franklin Delano Roosevelt has now entered on his olam haba, and has become part of the American tradition which he has enriched. His death has stunned America, has deeply grieved the Jewish people, has saddened the world. 

By environment and heredity he should have been merely one of the formal righteous presidents, not quite forgetful of the privileges of aristocracy, correct in the evaluation of the middle way, promoting the interests of the nation, and not unaware of democratic problems everywhere. 

The usual interpretation of President Roosevelt's career reads thus: He came from stock that offered him every opportunity. He suffered a grievous handicap. He recovered, and achieved outstanding success. But his true history is altogether different: He was born with the great handicap of a silver spoon in his mouth, a highly successful career beckoning him as a matter of course. But the Lord threw him on a sickbed, taught him for many weary years the abyss of hopelessness, the meaning of affliction, aroused in him a passionate understanding of

what the poor and the sick have to face. When he conquered his affliction he became a great man. He deliberately ignored the cribbed scene and interests of aristocracy, and in the words of Isaiah preferred to advance the cause of “those who are crushed and of lowly spirit.” He taught an incredulous America that this country was in truth established to advance the welfare of the common man, not by political formula, nor by well-formulated platforms, but by permeating the whole life of the nation with a constructive scheme meant to help those who are underprivileged. America will never forget his warmheartedness, his genuine personal interest in the illiterate share-cropper, in the negro bowed down by Jim Crowism, in every minority abused by demagogues and by mobs misled by the nefarious schemes of would-be dictators.

President Roosevelt had great vision. He said: “I see a plague in this country, made in Germany, afflicting and affecting large masses of our people. Compromise with it would be treason to America! We must fight it within the country and without.” He overcame selfish isolationism as he battled narrow sectionalism, by focusing the attention of the people to the danger confronting

them. Our sainted President forged out of a discordant congress and a divided nation the mightiest instrument for the perpetuation of justice and the re-establishment of democracy. 

With Lincoln he shared the love for the common man. With Wilson he shared great ideals. But like Samuel of old, "he knew not only the course of the stars, but also the meanest alleys of the metropolis. He prayed to God out of the depth of his misery, and the Lord had answered him with enlargement.”

“Forever blessed be his name; sure as the sun itself his fame. All Peoples enjoy his high bliss; all nations hail him as a happy man.”


Dr. Irving Linn 

Professor of English 

The unprecedented grief which we all feel in the death of President Roosevelt can be ascribed largely to the fact that he has been for us for a period of many years now, our symbol for life itself and the figure around whom we have built our hopes and aspirations. Small wonder then that we see in his loss a parallel to the death of Moses on Mount Neboah. But we must remember that the story of Moses is not only the story of the Deliverer of the Jews, but also the story of the Jews themselves who under the leadership of Joshua made their way into the Promised Land.

So we, too, must rally around President Truman and be led by him to a complete victory over our enemies. The plan of action and the idealism of President Roosevelt have been woven so deeply into the fabric of current history that our will aa a people to see them remain will be strong enough to maintain them as our present policy.


Prof. Jacob I. Hartstein 

Director, Graduate School 

Freedom-loving people throughout the world have suffered an irreparable loss and the cause of justice, a sturdy champion. Franklin Delano Roosevelt will be remembered to the end of time for his farsighted vision, infinite courage, broad and profound understanding, and self-sacrificial service to mankind. Like the very great who preceded him, it was not given to him to enter “The Promised Land,” which he was permitted to see, but like them, he will continue to inspire posterity to strive on to ever greater spiritual heights.