More than 500 friends, civic leaders and even some political rivals came out in droves on Sunday to mourn 22-year-old City Council staffer Hope Reichbach, the daughter of a prominent judge who died of a mysterious overdose on Thursday.
Of all the emotions on display at Brooklyn Heights’ Congregation Mt. Sinai, the most profound was the grief of Reichbach’s parents Ellen Meyers and Judge Gus Reichbach for their only daughter.
“Our loss is unfathomable, our grief is bottomless,” said Reichbach. “She wasn’t a star, but rather a comet that was extinguished much too soon. I love you, my baby.”
Pallbearers carried a simple wooden casket draped with a black cloth with the Star of David, followed by the immediate family.
The funeral capped three horrific days for the Reichbach family that began after a family friend found Hope Reichbach unconscious in her Schermerhorn Street apartment and called 911. Police pronounced her dead at the scene from an overdose of prescription drugs, according to a source close to the family.
Reichbach loved politics, journalism, and community activism, which she pursued seven days a week as a community liaison and spokeswoman for Councilman Steve Levin (D–Brooklyn Heights).
Levin called her the “most compassionate and thoughtful person you could ever want to meet” and that he would “never be the same without her.”
“There’s a hole in our lives that is so vast and so deep” said Levin. “It is up to all of us in this room to help Gus and Ellen persevere.”
The mourners came from all walks of life, including councilmembers, college-aged strivers, judges and public housing residents flooded the funeral to console family members and each other over the untimely death of the lifelong Boerum Hill resident.
Council Speaker Christine Quinn honored the deceased with a posthumous city proclamation, and Rabbi Joseph Potasnik urged mourners to honor Reichbach’s memory by helping people in the community.
Other attendees included Assemblyman Vito Lopez; dozens of members Lopez and Levin’s collective staffs; former Councilman, now Taxi Commissioner David Yassky, Councilmembers Brad Lander, Letitia James, Jumaane Williams, Mark Weprin, and Domenic Recchia; Comptroller John Liu; Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio; Borough President Markowitz; state Sens. Eric Adams and Daniel Squadron; Assemblymembers Joseph Lentol, Dov Hikind and Joan Millman.
Also on hand were some political rivals — including Rep. Nydia Velazquez, and district leaders Chris Owens, Jo Anne Simon, and Lincoln Restler — an indication of how respected Reichbach was, even to her opponents.
“Her death is a terrible tragedy,” Simon said.
A precocious trailblazer from an early age, Reichbach helped her father get elected to the civil court system when she was only 10 years old.
At Hunter College HS, she filed a federal lawsuit against then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for illegal military recruitment tactics.
Barely five years later, she ran for office herself, hoping to unseat a longtime incumbent district leader in Brownstone Brooklyn. She lost, but got an impressive 40 percent of the vote in her first race.
In her last days, she worked with Boerum Hill residents to calm neighborhood traffic, and plotted a strategy to win her rematch against Simon.
In lieu of flowers or food the family has requested that donations be made to the Nicholas Heyward Memorial fund, named after the young man who was killed in the Gowanus Houses.
©2011 Community News Group
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