Irene Rosenberg recently passed away. She was a longtime member of the University of Houston Law Center and a lion-hearted liberal. Irene and her husband Yale were two of the brightest lights at the law school. They were orthodox Jews and unapologetic leftists.
While I disagreed with the two of them about many things in law and politics, I learned a great deal from them. They were intellectual powerhouses with probing, critical minds capable of wonderful acts of analysis. When Yale died several years ago, I wrote her to express my appreciation for him. She wrote back with great warmth and affection. I still have that letter in a box marked SENTIMENTALS. It fills me with happiness to look at it and to think that it meant something to her that I wrote after his death.
Irene was emotionally transparent and very blunt. I can remember her asking a girl if a particular piercing was painful. The girl was taken aback. I was nearby and was greatly amused.
At one point, Irene figured out that I was a pretty religious person, like she and Yale were except Christian. She once told me she felt sorry that my faith lacked the detailed ritual and observance of her orthodox Judaism. The remark wasn’t meant offensively, nor did I take it that way. When Yale taught Jewish law, I took the course enthusiastically. He confided that conservative Christians tended to be his best students in the class because of their interest in the Hebrew scriptures.
Irene was sensitive to students, but she argued hard for her views. I had the chance to talk to her about them on many occasions offering my conservative challenges. At one point, she confided that she sometimes thought all political and legal discourse might be a screen for what’s really in our guts.
If her intuition was true, I can say this much: Her guts were made of solid gold. She was an orthodox Jewish humanist in the best sense of those words.