Herzl Spiro, MD: Mourning A Spiritual Founder and Leader of Community Psychiatry


We mourn the loss of Herzl Spiro, MD.

candle, memoriam

Photocreo Bednarek/AdobeStock


“A rabbi who takes Blue Cross/Blue Shield” - Herzl Spiro about himself

From a professional standpoint, I suppose a eulogy is not really necessary since I reviewed Herzl Spiro, MD’s important and revelatory memoir, among a few others of psychiatrists, on December 16, 2020: Disclosing Ourselves: A Review of 4 Psychiatrist Memoirs. It is definitely recommended if you have not read it yet.

Herzl Spiro, MD

Yet, from a personal perspective, it is necessary since he was a colleague, friend, and role model for me in the new field of community psychiatry, and we both lived in Milwaukee over recent decades. We worked together some, most memorably for me when we were dual discussants of a movie. I also knew of his empathy, sharing, and spirituality in providing effective psychotherapy, especially from a close friend who was greatly helped with the burnout blockages to his healing spirit.

His dying here in Milwaukee allowed me to attend his funeral, the first time I have done that for our series of eulogies over the years. He died on February 7, 2023, at the age of 87.

We found out the next day, and that evening my wife and I went as scheduled to see the unique and emotionally tango-driven version of the musical “Evita,” sometimes seductive and sometimes desperate. It was based on the real-life story of Eva Peron and her husband in Argentina in the early 1950s. In their quest for power, he became President and she was named “Spiritual Leader of the Nation” in 1952. Coming from a poor background herself, she promised to help the poor, but as we often see with political leaders, promises that largely were not kept. Dr Spiro, with a guiding spirit of Tikkun Olam, really did help the poor, including working in a community health clinic until he was too ill to do so.

Herzl came from a long lineage of rabbis. His first name I always assumed was in honor of Theodor Herzl, the father of modern political Zionism, which led to the state of Israel. He was active in resettling refugees from communities all over the world, especially those Black Jews from Ethiopia who were suffering from anti-Semitism.

The day of the funeral, February 9th, seemed psychologically and spiritually appropriate for me. Personally, it was also the day of my mother’s Yahrzeit, the anniversary of her death soon after we moved to Milwaukee.

As if to honor Dr Spiro, a hard, cold rain came down the morning of the funeral. I vaguely remembered some lines from Bob Dylan’s song, “A Hard Rain’s a-going to Fall”:

“I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest dark forest
Where the people are many and their hands are all empty . . .
Where hunger is ugly, where the souls are forgotten . . .
And I’ll tell it, and speak it, and think it, and breathe it
And reflect from the mountain so all souls can see it
Then I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinking . . .”

And so Herzl did it.

Just like his work with people, the hard rain turned to soft snow as I drove to the service. As I pulled into the parking lot, the CD that I was listening to unexpectedly played the theme, “Never Again,” from the Holocaust movie “Schindler’s List.” Then the snow stopped and I went into the service.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues related to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times™.

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