Herman Goldstein: 1931-2020

Professor Herman Goldstein died early this morning at Meriter Hospital surrounded by his family. It is a great loss to those of us who worked with and followed him over the years. The following is a eulogy for him — a most dear friend.

Herman Goldstein

Prof. Herman Goldstein

Herman Goldstein was my mentor, colleague and friend. I know we all will miss him deeply because who he was.

I first met Herman almost 50 years ago. He, along with Frank Remington, his colleague at the UW Law School (Frank died in 1996), were responsible for me coming to Madison in 1972.

We remained friends and colleagues — a small, activist group in advocating and facilitating the way police in a free society should act and the importance of police and citizens working together in solving community problems.

When you’ve been friends with someone for half a century, you not only share the high peaks, but the desert as well. The mark of a true friendship is being open and vulnerable, being able to share the inevitable losses and times of grief that we encounter along our journey.

Herman and I had days in which we talked (and often moaned) about family life, our medical system, the current state of politics in our nation, and, yes, our eventual last days, and the “cop shop.” That’s what makes a lasting friendship — openness and vulnerability.

As we aged, we never fully moved beyond policing. I wanted Herman to continue writing because he always was the bright light in the often-dark world of policing. From his days as a young assistant to the legendary O.W. Wilson, Chicago’s legendary reform police commissioner to teaching three generations of law students (and my police recruits) about the proper role of police in our society, the pursuit of justice, policy development, and the necessity of rule by law. His voice was strong and unwavering. But most importantly his life’s body of work was that police in a democracy matter —- and they matter greatly.

Some years ago, he visited Lithuania and shared his thoughts with me. His grandparents resided in a small rural town before the Shoah. They did not survive. He saw what the Holocaust did and came to understand the role local police had in fostering anti-Semitism throughout Europe. He worked to make sure that never would happen here in America.

For years, in his office at the university and later at home, he had a triptych of three photos on his wall showing an elderly woman fallen down on the street, a police officer helping her stand up, and a final picture of the elderly woman hugging the officer (see below). No shoot-outs, SWAT teams, or high-speed chases, just a police officer helping a person in need. That was the message he taught year after year. And, most appropriately, two years ago, he was rewarded the coveted Stockholm prize in Criminology.

As Christian and Jew, we were brothers in faith. We knew and shared the same God, the covenantal God of loving kindness. When I brought members of my congregation to Beth Israel a few years ago, Herman was our enthusiastic guide. With great pride he talked about this congregation and how it sustained him. Last year, I attended Shabbat at Beth Israel with Herman and met members of his congregation. He, with great pride, introduced me to his new rabbi, Betsy Forester. His first woman rabbi and I could tell she lit up his life.

Herman now rests in peace. His ailing body healed. We shall not soon forget him, his legacy, or the man he was.

He loved his family, his children and grandchildren and he continued to love Shulamit.

He will always be a brother to me. A man whom I deeply love and respect — and now greatly miss.

He was truly a mensch; a man of integrity and honor.

I would like to close with this quote from Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. from a sermon he gave in February, 1968, two months before his death.

I would apply this to how I came to know and love Herman — also a drum major for justice and a committed life.

“Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice.

“Say that I was a drum major for peace.

“I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.

“I won’t have any money to leave behind. I won’t have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind.

“But I just want to leave a committed life behind. And that’s all I want to say.”


Here are the three pictures I mentioned above:

Herman and I in Washington, DC in 1993 shortly before my retirement from Madion.