Herb Brin: Remembering a Remarkable Man

My father, Herb Brin was a poet, journalist, and publisher – and one of the most colorful figures to practice the craft of journalism, both in Chicago and Southern California. He passed away 10 years ago today. (2/17/1915 – 2/6/2003)

HB 1955Herb was born in 1915 in Chicago to a poor family of Jewish immigrants from Poland and Russia – in an era when signs posted on some windows read “No Jews and Dogs Allowed.”

In the years before America’s entry in World War II, Herb infiltrated the German-American Bund for the Anti-Defamation League, then became a gangland reporter for the legendary City News Bureau in Chicago. He quickly gained a reputation for tough and fearless reporting, but with a unique tone of heart and compassion.

Herb+plane&WACHerb served as an army reporter during World War II, then he joined the Los Angeles Times as a respected feature writer, covering everything from local pothole scandals to the Khruschev-Eisenhower summit and the trial of Adolph Eichmann in Jerusalem. In 1954, he launched the Heritage Jewish newspapers across Southern and Central California. Its motto, inscribed above the masthead, was a commandment from Deuteronomy: “Justice, Justice Shalt Thou Pursue…”

As the paper’s star investigative reporter, Herb broke many stories, including early revelations about the heroism of Oskar Schindler, the crimes of Klaus Barbie, and the plight of Soviet Jewry and other oppressed peoples. He stood not far from Robert Kennedy the night the Senator was shot and killed. Herb’s social activism – generally liberal – took quirky, individualistic and sometimes downright contrary turns that sometimes irked friends on the left. But his willful independence and cheerfully cantankerous eagerness for a good story endeared him to thousands and helped to weld Southern California Jewry into a strong and eclectic community.

Herb traveled extensively, to Israel and Spain, Poland and Germany, writing poignant soul-searching reflections on history.  “Where there is conflict, pray for conscience,” wrote Herb.

WildflowersSmallerBrin was also a world-renowned poet, whose collections were prefaced by great names like Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, who wrote,  “How a journalist, how an editor could also be a brilliant poet is a source of astonishment – and of gratitude.”

But none of these accomplishments even hint at the vividness of this “character” who made a strong impression upon everyone who met him: eager, argumentative, unfailingly generous, and always interested in the underdog.

HerbBioCoverNewRecited to tape just a few years before his passing, in 2003, Herb’s autobiography, Shouting for Justice: The Journey of a Jewish Journalist Across the Century of Hitler and Israel, touches upon the highlights of a most unusual and illuminating American life. A fighter for his people and for a more just world. See the extensive tribute page that contains selections from his autobiography, travelogues and poetry. 

JusticeJusticeNewCover“Not to the weak of heart does artistry belong,” Brin declares in the opening line of his book of poems, Justice, Justice, Poems Reflecting the Measures of Man. Herb brings to his poetry the same burning indignation against tyranny, the same compassion for the persecuted as he did to the readers of his widely-quoted Heritage column, “Across the City Desk.”

With every word and stanza, Herb holds a lantern to the humaniy and all too frequent inhumanity of mankind, as he weeps for a child’s tear, reminisces over lost love…or chronicles the pangs of aging.

A remarkable man — he is missed.

Here is a sampling of Herb’s poignant poetry, from his book, Poems of the Rubio: 

A Song of Magic

 PoemsRubioA child with a tear

Sheds a torment for me

His grief tears the heavens apart


Oh I’d bring him a song

To soften his wrong

And a trick

And a trick for a start


For the trace of a smile

I’d tumble a mile

I’d tangle the trees

For a child


And weave for him tales

Of high-flying whales

Of princes

Of kingdoms beguiled


Oh I’d sing him of places

Where monkeys made faces

At rhinos that frolic on air

And I’d pop a balloon

For my friend the baboon

And I’d dance with a laughing bear


A sob and a fear

Would soon disappear

And he’d laugh

At a tipsy giraffe


Or a turtle that sings

Of wondrous things

Or a lion on butterfly wings


Oh child of my heart

Oh child of my heart

Grief tears the heavens apart.

 ====    =====    ====

ConflictsCoverNew I Invented Time

 Hold back your clocks

Damn it, no requiem for me!

I’ll rust those gears

With the fine spray of seas

That sweep my autumn years.


Crusts of age clog my knees

But I’ll get along

At a lesser pace.


And softer my sighs

Gentler, more gentle

And as suns descend

I’ll get along

It’s moonlight saving time

For me.


CantoCropI’ve many a mountain yet to climb

And the hot breath of lips on mine

And the touch of tender hips.


Are there promises to keep?

Don’t count my ways

Don’t count my ways.


The brook, the stream, the massive sea

Hold many mysteries for me

And books unread

And paths untrod

Primeval forests beckon me.


Don’t speed my way to dreams undreamed

I’ve cantatas to create

I’ve heady lilacs yet to sense

And little foxes to divine.


Take back your clocks

Hold back your clocks

With searing breath of lips

On mine

I invented time. 

 ====    =====    ====

And this one from Wildflowers: A Garden of Jewish Verse


1 Comment

Filed under history, society, theology, writing

One response to “Herb Brin: Remembering a Remarkable Man

  1. Thank you for sharing the story of a remarkable man and father. I will re-search his poetry. Thank you for introducing his poetry to me.

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