Kindest Critic

Many, many were the nights when without Robert this paper would not have come out. Or at any rate, that is how it most certainly seemed to us, his colleagues at Haaretz English Edition, as we squeaked past another after-midnight deadline with reams and reams of raw Haaretz copy all somehow translated, edited, page-set and sent to press.

His output was truly phenomenal. His capacity vast; his knowledge encyclopedic. Uncomplaining, with breathtaking speed, with unfailing good grace, he would wade through troughs of dense prose, written to fill whole pages of Hebrew newsprint, and emerge with a succinct, coherent story often capped with a cute or sardonic headline for good measure.

The man was a joy to have around. He was a relief to have around - because you knew that with him the inevitable nightly crises would somehow be resolved. He was often a headache to have around, because, while doing his speed-reading, speed-writing, speed headline-composing and speed-laying-out he would be treating all those within earshot to a cheery, incessant, unquenchable patter of opinion. Sometimes it was about the story in hand. But often it would be about something completely different - which made his expeditious progress on the text all the more amazing. He liked to have the television blaring in the background, too - usually about still another subject. Robert, who was a decade ahead of his time on the Internet, was the consummate multitasker before the rest of us had heard of the concept.

As a largely translated rendition of the Hebrew paper, Haaretz English Edition's journalists are mostly anonymous to its readers. Even as irrepressible and passionate a figure as Robert would play his pivotal role behind the scenes, behind the bylines, that is, of our well-known Haaretz columnists and reporters. As he translated them, he would often argue and remonstrate with them in absentia. But the more discerning amongst them would make a point of ambling over to him in the newsroom of an evening, to get an earful of burning zeal on the issues of the day - or on some exotic item that he had come across on his eclectic trawling of the Net.

Robert's zest and boisterous irreverence made him a head-turner in the old, strait-laced days at The Jerusalem Post. One urban legend has it that as a diplomatic reporter, his unfailing nightly attempts at friendly schmooze eventually drove the notoriously ungarrulous then-foreign minister Yitzhak Shamir to change his home phone number.

Later, we asked him to relocate to Tel Aviv and evoke for our readers the laid-back buzz of the secular-but-so-Jewish metropolis. He quickly made his unique mark on the scene here - and now leaves that scene depleted.

But above all, and at this moment of hesed shel emet when only the truth should be written, it is Robert Rosenberg's good-heartedness that deserves words of praise and admiration. For more than 30 years I would hear him criticizing the whole world. But I never heard him say a bad word to anyone. He was full of kindness. That, as we are told (Avot 2,9), caps everything.