Address delivered by Rabbi Raymond Apple at the funeral of the Hon Harold Hyam Glass AO RFD RAN QC, at the Great Synagogue, Sydney, on Friday, 31 March, 1989.
We meet in a mood of immense sadness to bid farewell to Harold Glass, quintessential judge, learned lawyer, loyal Australian, faithful Jew, broadminded human being, cultured citizen of the world, ever-devoted inspiration of his family.
His life story is that of a man of great promise who rose to great heights of achievement.
Here and there you can still come across a copy of the Sydney High School Jubilee Book published in 1933. It contains a photograph of the school debating team of that year. Of a certain H Glass, a member of the team, the Jubilee Book has this to say: “Clear, lucid, deliberate speaker; pleasing personality; with a little experience, should go far”.
The Honorable Justice Harold H Glass gained more than a little experience, and indeed went far in many fields of human achievement.
He was a brilliant student at school and university. He became a gifted lawyer with a flourishing practice, taking silk in his early 40’s. He was a lecturer at Sydney University in Torts and Contracts and later, Procedure, and in recent years a visiting professor at the University of NSW. He was the author of several legal textbooks. He held office as president of the Bar Association.
His appointment to judicial office on the Supreme Court of NSW and then the Court of Appeal was altogether logical, inevitable and appropriate. His judgments were models of analysis of legal principles, couched in language that had elegance and style.
In wartime he served in the navy as a lieutenant and rose to be Judge Advocate General and a Rear Admiral. In both his service and his civilian career he imposed the highest standards upon himself and was meticulous in the way he strove to live up to them. He was honoured with the Reserve Forces Decoration and the high award of Officer of the Order of Australia.
But if you want the measure of a man you have to go beyond his curriculum vitae, you have to look further than his register of achievements. And when the man was a lawyer, an advocate, you can discern an uncannily accurate analogy in an old rabbinic passage about a person who seeks an advocate to represent him at the moment of his passing when account and reckoning is necessary in the Supreme Court on High.
He turns for help first to his family and friends and says, “Plead for me; save me from the decree of death”. But, helpless and in tears, they reply, “We have no power over death”.
He turns to his worldly goods and says, “I struggled for you for so long; struggle for me, and save me!” But they reply, “We have no power against the Judge’s decree.”
Finally he turns to his good deeds, and they say, “Fear not, but go in peace; we shall go before you to plead for you before the throne of mercy”.
The best advocate at the moment of truth is one’s deeds of humanity, the expressions of one’s character and personality.
The type of person Harold Glass was was influenced by his upbringing together with his brother Ken and sister Aviva. Their parents were remarkable people. Their father was Sydney B Glass, lawyer, historian, communal worker; their mother was Ray Glass, nee Green, a gracious matriarch. Their values and the good breeding and cultured minds that personified them were a great influence on their children.
Harold Glass became a person of polish and style, a civilised human being, highly cultivated in many fields. He stoke many languages (and could comfortably conduct a Hebrew service too). He was a classical scholar with an elegant command of words – but not only in his legal career but even as a novelist whose pen-name, Benjamin Sydney, soon identified him to family and friends as the son of Sydney Benjamin Glass.
He loved music, especially opera. He cherished books. Be was even a farmer. As a Jew he followed his family’s long tradition of association with the Great Synagogue and was an ardent supporter of Israel, though he was far from uncritical and not long ago contributed to the Synagogue Journal an article which took issue with things he saw and did not like in the Israeli legal system.
Perhaps this tells you even more than it appears to do. Here was an urbane, controlled, careful lawyer and judge, without bombast or ostentation. Yet if something needed to be said he did not lack courage, though this was not a man who needed to or could be destructive or malicious. A man, in all, who was known for honesty, uprightness, integrity.
Until his illness, he had a busy, happy, zestful life. Be did many things, and did them well. Had things been different, he would have had many years of active retirement before him. But events intervened, and he bore his illness with dignity and fortitude.
To say that to the very last minute his family loved and admired him is such an understatement. He was a wonderful husband and father, deeply devoted and caring and supportive. The thoughts of all of us, and of countless friends and admirers everywhere, are with his dear wife and children and with all the family. May their pride in Harold Glass be their inspiration. And may Harold Glass, Reb Chayyim ben Reb Binyamin, rest in eternal peace; his memory will be a blessing. Yehi zichro baruch.