Tribute Page for Herb Brin
"How a journalist, how an editor could also be a brilliant poet is a source of astonishment - and of gratitude."
-- Elie Wiesel
For warmth in winter, outside the Crane plumbing supplies company on Kedzie Avenue in Chicago, my father and I would start two huge fires in 55-gallon steel drums. We'd feed the fires with yesterday's news - than which, it was said, there is nothing deader. Only world events would soon put to shame that old newspaper cliché.
The Hitler years were beginning to unfold in Europe. A world would soon be propelled into the most enormous, the most shattering events in human history ....
So begins the autobiography of one of the most colorful figures to practice the 20th Century art of journalism in both Chicago and Southern California.
When the first issue of Heritage rolled off the press, Herb Brin inscribed above the masthead of his fledgling newspaper the words, "Justice, Justice Shalt Thou Pursue...." The prophet's noble admonition was a hot, living reality to Brin, translated into action every week on the editorial pages of his four California newspapers.
The pursuit of justice would take him from the slums of Chicago to the glitterati of Hollywood, from civil rights marches to the crematoriums of Auschwitz, from international summit conferences to the Eichmann trial, from the silent Jews of Moscow to the 1967 battlefields of Israel. And along the way, he would put his pen to some of the most vivid, passionate poetry and prose of our time.
ABOVE: The masthead for the Heritage Press, which Herb Brin published in four Southern California counties.
Herb Brin was born in the vibrant immigrant enclave of Chicago's Northwest Side and after high school staked out the beginning of his lifetime career in the brawling journalism of the Thirties in his native city, covering gangland killings, corrupt politics and the aching heart of poverty.
After soldiering in World War II, he took the advice of another great journalist, went West and back into the fourth estate. He was earning a reputation as one of the liveliest feature writers on the Los Angeles Times when he suddenly turned his back on the safe, monthly paycheck and dove bravely into the swirling waters of Jewish journalism.
It was then that he established Heritage, which, despite glum predictions, survived, matured and thrived, and expanded into a chain of four lusty weeklies in Los Angeles, San Diego, the California Central Valley, and Orange County. Herb went on to become one of the most honored Jewish newspapermen of our day, publisher-editor of newspapers in Los Angeles, San Diego, the California Central Valley and Orange County.
ABOVE: Heritage Press became a thriving center of journalism about Jewish issues. Herb is seen here during the 1980s with colleague Tom Tugend, as well as sons David and Daniel.
As a reporter-essayist, Herb Brin covered some of the crucial stories of our day, from the Eichmann trial to the 1960 Summit Conference in Paris. He ran exposes that helped track down and try Klaus Barbie and was the first journalist to break the emerging story about the oppression of Soviet Jewry. His investigative reporting on hate groups in American was always at the forefront and many mainstream journalists turned to his expertise when covering groups such as the Aryan Nations.
He collected a fistful of writing and civic Awards, fought the good fight for civil rights before it was quite fashionable, and graced innumerable lecture platforms.
ABOVE: As a journalist in Southern California, Herb moved freely, seeking out the newsworthy, from murderers and hatemongers to Hollywood celebrities. Here he is seen in the 1960s introducing his three sons, (l. to r.) David, Daniel and Stan, to singer/actor Pat Boone (far right).
These loves Herb Brin fused in his poetry, earning him a modest but significant international reputation. His verses are the cry, the laughter, the little sorrows and the eternal triumphs of a man - and of a people whose poets have celebrated her history and faith for 4000 years.
In six slim poetry volumes and two travelogues that explore the Holocaust, he added to the vast contribution made by half a century of journalistic service to his people, to his country and to the communities of Southern California. All are for sale in ebook format.
Herb Brin's autobiography, completed shortly before his death, and six poems from his collection are also available to read (for free) on this site. Also free: Menorahman! A fantasy "written only for children and their dreams."