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The House Our Father Built

Yisroel Besser

He was a famed philanthropist, a brilliant manager, a visionary builder, a man who literally changed the skylines of leading metropolises. But his children knew that Reb Moishe Reichmann never saw his fortune as his essence. His priorities were much more elevated, more eternal, than any skyscraper could be. In a series of rare conversations, the five Reichmann children share a picture of the father they knew.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

It’s mere weeks after the passing of the man who taught Toronto — and an entire generation — how to give, and as you walk the streets of the city, you sense a bit of its splendor gone, its luster dulled. The outpouring of homage to Reb Moishe Reichmann has come from all directions, from the Eidah HaCharedis to Ponovezh, from the Canadian government to the international business community. But nowhere is it felt more deeply than in the shuls, kollelim, and yeshivos of the city, where, like a rosh hakahal in the village of old, he was patron and supporter, innovator and leader. His name appears nowhere, not on buildings or plaques, but his presence is everywhere.

A nation mourns a leader, a community mourns a benefactor, and his children mourn their father. In the press, Paul Reichmann was legend — for his real estate vision, his intuition, his projects, and his holdings. In his home, he is recalled for his essence — a soul that dealt in a completely different currency.

There are five Reichmann children; all reflect the stateliness and graciousness of their parents. As they open their homes to share their reminiscences, they also share gentle hospitality, genuine middos, and a refreshing lack of pretentiousness and self-importance. From eldest to youngest, their memories sometimes overlap, sometimes contradict as they recall different periods and different situations, but they all echo a common refrain. They recall a father who, like royalty — which stirs the masses simply by being — taught without preaching, uplifted with the sheer power of his presence. The words he used were few, but they were never disparaging, never discouraging, and certainly never hurtful. He was as private in his home as he was public in business; his every financial decision and move was analyzed and reported, but his home life was zealously guarded. He asked for nothing, yet his children yearned to do for him, to spend time with him, to bask in his aura.

Even the way they refer to their father is unique: Deddy, they call him, both children and grandchildren. Not Daddy, Tatty, or Zeidy, but Deddy. It’s uttered with reverence, layered with love, an old-world term that conjures the aura of bygone courtliness and respect. And over the course of a day spent piecing together stories and memories, the chronicle of Reb Moshe Reichmann emerges with respect as its central theme.

 

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