Murray Galinson was mourned Monday as a “giant of a man” at a memorial service attended by nearly 1,000 people, including San Diego Mayor Bob Filner and his predecessor Jerry Sanders as well as NBA legend Bill Walton and a “who’s who” of civic and corporate lights.
One man who couldn’t attend sent a letter to Elaine Galinson, his wife of 53 years.
“Please accept my sympathies,” wrote President Barack Obama in a 100-word note read aloud by George Mitrovich. “Murray’s commitment to civic engagement was well-known. And his legacy lives on through his numerous good works and unyielding faith in our democratic process.”
Galinson, 75, was a St. Louis Park native. He died Jan. 3.
The Union-Tribune San Diego reported that Galinson recently had surgery to remove a tumor between his brain and spinal cord, but it was unknown whether the procedure played a role in his death.
Mitrovich, a fellow civic leader, said in addition to the president, condolences also came from Vice President Joe Biden, former President Bill Clinton, Gov. Jerry Brown, Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, former Mayor Pete Wilson, Attorney General Kamala Harris and California’s two Democratic senators—Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer
In a simple hour-long memorial service at Congregation Beth Israel in UTC, the banker and philanthropist was recalled especially for his contributions to his party, family and Jewish community.
Senior Rabbi Michael Berk said: “Oh, how we still need him. Beth Israel … needs him … Israel needs him … San Diego—its institutions and universities and philanthropies—need him.
“Indeed, America still needs Murray Galinson. Politicians need him—they need to learn from his example, what it means to serve in the noble cause of bettering the lives of those with whom we share this country and this planet—by seeking answers to our problems, not just winning.”
With Galinson’s casket in front of him, Berk noted that Murray’s Hebrew name was Mosheh—Moses.
Berk said the first Sabbath services following Galinson’s death focused on Exodus—the book featuring Moses, whom Berk recalled as “the first liberal, a bleeding heart liberal.”
Befitting Galinson’s cultural contributions, the San Diego Symphony strings quintet played classical music, with principal associate concertmaster Nick Grant on violin.
The audience was told that this week’s concerts would be dedicated to Galinson, a board member of the symphony foundation.
The North County Times reported Galinson's "first foray into politics came in his hometown of St. Louis Park, where the Republican mayor refused Galinson’s plea to serve on a community advisory board because he was a Democrat. So Galinson ran for City Council, won and then helped a Democratic council majority strip the mayor of his appointment powers."
As U-T San Diego noted, “Galinson grew into a political power broker, eventually becoming deputy director of Walter Mondale’s presidential campaign in 1984. After moving to San Diego in 1970 to teach law, Galinson became a prominent political figure, once dubbed San Diego’s Democratic kingmaker” by a local news weekly.”
Galinson was an assistant U.S. attorney in Minneapolis and after his move to La Jolla became CEO/president of San Diego National Bank and founding partner of La Jolla MJ Management Co.
He chaired the San Diego Advisory Board for Police Community Relations, the San Diego Citizens Review Board for Police Practices, UC San Diego Chancellors Associates and the San Diego Blue Ribbon Task Force on Violence.
He also served on number boards including the Jewish Funder’s Network, Jewish Community Foundation of San Diego, Jewish Federation of San Diego County, the Leichtag Foundation, the Galinson Family Foundation, the Weingart Foundation and AIPAC.
San Diego Jewish World editor and co-publisher Donald Harrison said the Monday afternoon audience was a “High Holy Day” crowd with many “captains of industry” present, including Gary Jacobs of Qualcomm, son of the founder Irwin.
Harrison's report featured lighter moments:
Like many of the other speakers, [Dr. Warren] Kessler commented on Murray’s ‘puckish’ sense of humor, telling how he once had skied down a slope ahead of Elaine, urging people to “make way” for the princess who was skiing behind him. The image made many mourners laugh, because although Elaine is admired for her generosity and beauty — and could be a “princess” if she ever wanted — she has endeared herself to the community as one who is ever ready to roll up her sleeves and pitch in.
Mayor Filner arrived late—after an earlier stop at Greg Cox, Dianne Jacob and Dave Roberts’ swearing in on the county Board of Supervisors.
At the County Operations Center, Roberts said: “I don’t think it would be right to start my remarks today without pausing for a moment and remembering a great San Diegan, who we just lost… Murray Galinson. Murray had wanted to be here today. We actually were to be getting together next Tuesday. Unfortunately, the Lord took him too quickly.”
With extra chairs added to the 300-seat extension to the main sanctuary, the audience was estimated at 975, said Beth Israel President Emily Jennewein.
Other speakers Monday at Beth Israel were Rabbi/Cantor Arlene Bernstein and Kessler, who preceded Galinson’s children—Laura, Jeff and Rick.
Other public officials present included District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, U.S. Reps. Susan Davis, Juan Vargas and Scott Peters and former congresswoman Lynn Schenk, San Diego Councilwoman Marti Emerald and state Sen. Christine Kehoe.
With a San Diego Police Department motorcycle unit leading the way, the family left Beth Israel about 2:30 p.m. for a private interment at El Camino Memorial Park.
La Jolla Patch editor Michelle Mowad contributed to this report.