Upstanding Robert Morgenthau Laid To Rest

On July 22, 2019, the Armenian Bar Association, like legion of admirers within and outside of the Armenian community, heard with deep sorrow and accepted with heavy heart the news of the passing of a bold and brave paragon of high moral character, Robert M. Morgenthau.

Mr. Morgenthau passed away 10 days short of his 100th birthday and will be remembered as an irreproachable public figure, most notably—for Americans – as New York’s long-serving district attorney and—for Armenians—as the grandson of U.S. Ambassador Henry Morgenthau.

Knowing well that the Morgenthau family inhabits a hallowed sanctuary within the annals of American and Armenian history, separately and inter-connectedly, our leadership in New York immediately contacted the Foreign Minister of Armenia, Armenia’s Ambassador to the U.S., and Armenia’s Ambassador to the United Nations, advising of the rueful report of Mr. Morgenthau’s passing and requesting a letter of condolence from Armenia’s Prime Minister.   We also reached out to our spiritual leaders at the Diocese and the Prelacy, securing their representation at Mr. Morgenthau’s memorial service.

We, for our own part, prepared and issued a timely and touching press release. [See Armenian Bar Association Mourns the Loss of Robert M. Morgenthau.] It was widely disseminated among our members and friends.

On the eve of the memorial service at the Frank Campbell Funeral Chapel, accompanied by U.N. Ambassador Mher Margaryan and with the facilitation of Ambassador Varuzhan Nersesyan, Armenian Bar Board member Souren Israelyan personally delivered Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s letter of condolence to the Morgenthau family in which the head of government conveyed the Armenian nation’s sympathies and gratitude. [See https://www.primeminister.am/en/condolence/item/2019/07/24/Nikol-Pashinyan-condolences/.]

On the morning of the memorial service, July 25, 2019, a delegation of Armenian Bar representatives assembled in homage to and honor of Mr. Morgenthau at Temple Emanu-El, Judaism’s largest house of worship in the world.  The Morgenthau family envisioned the service as a celebration of Robert Morgenthau’s resplendent lights of life rather than as a mournful elegy of his demise.  The temple teemed with thousands of devotees of the lasting legacy of Mr. Morgenthau.  Prominent among the attendees were priests of the Armenian Church who, cloaked in our centuries-old religious vestments, greeted the family and represented our traditional faith and unifying ecumenicalism.

As widely reported in the media, United States Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and the high societies of law and public officialdom came together in a non-partisan tribute to the rectitude and righteousness of Mr. Morgenthau. [See for example https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.nydailynews.com/new-york/ny-morgenthau-funeral-sotomayer-20190725-flpwdgupijevdoxy5r4ogcgmya-story.html%3foutputType=amp.]

At the memorial service, Senior Rabbi Emeritus Ronald Sobel highlighted the transformational heritage of the Morgenthau family, starting with Henry Morgenthau, Sr.,  the U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire during the Armenian Genocide, followed by Henry Morgenthau, Jr., the U.S. Secretary of Treasury during President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration, and then encapsulated by the dearly departed, Robert Morgenthau. Mr. Morgenthau’s children and close friends spoke about his incredible life and as an exemplar of an honest and high-minded individual who, through the gift of a long and distinguished life, pioneered many causes of justice, to the very last of his days.

In his eulogy, Bob Morgenthau, the eldest of Robert Morgenthau’s sons, remembered how his father cherished loyalty in general, and the allegiance of the Armenian community in particular. He noted that, while all of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide have passed away, the Armenian community’s bonds of respect and admiration for the Morgenthau family have never diminished.  Speaking about that continuity of affinity, Bob Morgenthau pledged that the Morgenthau family’s deep and meaningful relationship with the Armenian community will remain vibrant for future generations.

While the Armenian Bar Association felt humbled last month to witness the truly moving ceremony of Robert Morgenthau’s final journey, just last year we had the good fortune of welcoming Mr. Morgenthau to our Public Servants Dinner at the Yale Club.

There, on April 26, 2018, on what have been the 162nd birthday of his grandfather Henry Morgenthau, Robert Morgenthau received one of the Armenian Bar Association’s highest honors.  The magnificent gala dinner was attended by hundreds of judges, public officials, dignitaries and, of course, by members and friends of the Armenian Bar Association.  Please see our reporting of the event and also for the text of Robert Morgenthau’s remarks as he accepted our Public Servants Award. [Video] [Speech]

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