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1,000 pack funeral service for Murray Galinson

By Donald H. Harrison

SAN DIEGO — In the Glickman-Galinson Sanctuary named for his family and that of his wife Elaine, Murray Galinson was eulogized Monday, Jan. 7, by two rabbis,  two friends, and three children during a service that drew a High Holy Day-sized crowd that Congregation Beth Israel’s president Emily Jennewein estimated at 1,000.

Mourners sat in the main sanctuary and in the connecting social hall, where they were aided in seeing the proceedings by a giant screen closed circuit television.  Seating mostly was first-come, first-serve,  for the multi-religious, multi-racial crowd who were indicative of Galinson’s extraordinary reach and service within the general San Diego and Jewish communities.

City Club President George Mitrovich read a telegram sent to Elaine by U.S. President Barack Obama, extolling Murray, who had died suddenly after an operation to remove a small tumor,  as a “man of conviction” who “led by example.”   There were other telegrams and letters of condolence as well, from such national dignitaries as former U.S. President Bill Clinton, Vice President Joseph Biden, former Vice President Walter Mondale (for whom Murray had served as deputy campaign manager in 1984), Gov. Jerry Brown, former Gov. Pete Wilson, and U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Boxer and Al Franken.  

In the audience were numerous local present and former officeholders, including, among others, the current and immediate past mayors of San Diego, Bob Filner and Jerry Sanders, Members of Congress Susan Davis, Scott Peters and Juan Vargas, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis,  and former Congresswoman Lynn Schenk.

Noting that while Murray was a Democrat, he had many friends in the Republican party, Mitrovich said  that “people whose politics were different than Murray’s never seemed to mind.”  He cited as an example civic leader Malin Burnham, a strongly identified Republican, who said that on the many boards, committees and commissions where their paths crossed, “Murray’s calming presence saved the moment.”

Murray’s service on various boards involved with the arts, civic affairs, and education was varied and legion, and the audience swelled with people who had served with him.  For example, two audience members were El Indio Restaurant owner Ralph Pesquiera who had served with Murray on the state California State University and Colleges Board of Trustees, and Alan Ziter who had worked with him on the Naval Training Center Foundation.

Following Mitrovich to the speaker’s rostrum in front of the sanctuary was Warren Kessler who announced that the musicians who had played classical music as the mourners filed in were members of the San Diego Symphony, upon whose  Foundation Murray had served.  Kessler, chairman of the symphony board,  added that  this week’s concerts by the San Diego Symphony will be dedicated to Murray’s memory.

In addition to general community involvements, Murray led numerous organizations within the Jewish community — having served as a past president of Congregation Beth Israel, of the United Jewish Federation, chairman of the Jewish Community Foundation, and the National Jewish Funders Network.

“When Murray got involved in an organization, he was quickly chosen to lead it, ” Kessler said.  Murray and Elaine Galinson, his wife of 53 years, were instrumental in the founding of the overnight camp for Jewish children, Camp Mountain Chai, and also were active in Jewish Family Service and the Jewish Community Center.

“I cannot think of a single Jewish organization not touched by them,” said Kessler.  Murray did not accept these positions out of a desire for self-aggrandizement  or publicity, Kessler added,  but rather because in the spirit of “tikkun olam,” he felt a responsibility for fixing what is wrong.

Like many of the other speakers, Kessler commented on Murray’s ‘puckish’ sense of humor, telling how he once had skied down a slope ahead of Elaine, urging people to “make way” for the princess who was skiing behind him.   The image made many mourners laugh, because although Elaine is admired for her generosity and beauty — and could be a “princess” if she ever wanted — she has endeared herself to the community as one who is ever ready to roll up her sleeves and pitch in.

Some of the most poignant moments in the funeral service were when Murray’s and Elaine’s adult children,  Laura, Jeff and Rick, struggled to keep their composure  as they shared the impact Murray had on their lives.  “He was always so much fun to hang out with at the office,” said Laura, who worked with him in the suite he shared with principals of the Price Family Charities.  “You never knew who  was coming…. Dad taught me to be honest and forthright.  He could have a lot going on, all at once and could still make great decisions.”

Said Jeff: “He was Superman to mom’s Wonder Woman.”  And with his grandchildren, there was nothing Murray enjoyed more than running model trains  (for which he had built a track in his back yard overlooking the Pacific Ocean) except perhaps “showing their pictures at board meetings.”   Jeff quipped that an early lesson that Murray, a former chairman  of San Diego National Bank, taught the grandchildren to repeat was “no co-signing and no guarantees.”

Rick described his father as “larger than life,” and as someone who was “always there” for a midnight call, a person who would “do everything for you. …. He was the person who validated me…. I feel cheated; he’s gone too early.  He wasn’t done.”

Rabbi Berk, who co-officiated with Rabbi/ Cantor Arlene Bernstein, said that as impressive as it was that even the President of the United States and various ranking officials had taken official notice of Galinson’s death, the lasting impact he made as a role model for his friends and family members was perhaps even more important.

Berk noted that January 3rd, the day that Murray died at age 75, was one day before the Shabbat on which Jewish congregations around the world began reading the Book of Exodus.   Murray’s Hebrew name was “Moshe” (Moses) and like the original Moses, Galinson was a leader  of his community and a teacher.  “Values informed everything he did,” said the rabbi. “When you were with him, you were pretty sure you were his best friend….”   And, as many others had said, he was the “nicest person any of us met.”

The family later held a private burial service at El Camino Cemetery in San Diego.

Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World.  He may be contacted at [email protected]

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2 Responses to “1,000 pack funeral service for Murray Galinson”

  1. admin says:

    Rabbi Ben Kamin sent the following:

    A community columnist for the Union Tribune correctly wrote that “San Diego lost a friend in Murray Galinson.” The lanky, virtuoso social advocate, a genuine conciliator and gentleman, was also a friend of rabbis. No one in the clergy, whether associated with Congregation Beth Israel (which he loved dearly) or any synagogue or Jewish agency in this city, can possibly recall any time spent with Murray without feelings of gratitude and respect.

    In their tributes and grief, a lot of people have been applying the term “soft-spoken” to Murray. Yet, during my tenure at Beth Israel, his voice was the clearest and most audible I heard. He spoke to and for fairness, rectitude, and applied his extraordinary political talents without fanfare and with the institution in mind above all. In his quiet strength and judicious skills, his eloquent reticence, he shamed the rest of us in our small-mindedness and vanities.

    He never raised his voice or took sides. He just expressed an uncommon empathy and defended the progress and welfare of the synagogue. Murray Galinson was eminently likable and did not traffic in gossip. Nor did he play favorites even though his power and experience might have tempted him.

    Murray Galinson did not even know the language of blather; his was speech with decency, direction with integrity. He knew many American heroes and even helped them ascend, from Walter F. Mondale to Bill Clinton to Joe Biden to Barack Obama. He never dropped names and he surely never flaunted his success and prosperity. That the magnificent, Jerusalem-style sanctuary at Beth Israel carried his family name seemed as natural as the presence of the Torah scrolls in the ark.

    Murray particularly exemplified two valued Talmudic principles. The rabbis have expressed that those who run after celebrity will find that it eludes them while those who eschew fame will become celebrated. The sages must have anticipated Murray Galinson of San Diego. In another aphorism, Hillel declared: “In a place where there are no human beings, you be a human being.” Every time I concluded a talk, a visit, or shared in a sacred moment with him, I felt his uncompromising humanity. He was a mensch who saw division and tried to heal it; saw wrong and tried to right it.

    Any one of us rabbis who ever mingled with Murray Galinson have recognized, at some point, that he made us better rabbis just for knowing him. May his memory be for a blessing and may his family be comforted among the mourners of Zion.

  2. Karen says:

    Beautifully written, Don, and Rabbi Kamin.
    I never met Mr. Galinson but always admired the myriad things he did that I read about so often.
    People use the word “mensch” so often that it has lost its true impact, but this man truly was.
    Thank you for the eulogies.


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