Robert Frost Rarely Went to Church, But Poet Had Personal Rabbi

Laureate Enjoyed a Friendship With Rabbi Victor Reichert

Promises To Keep: For more than two decades, Rabbi Victor Reichert (right) maintained a friendship with Robert Frost.
Courtesy of the Poetry Collection of the University Libraries
Promises To Keep: For more than two decades, Rabbi Victor Reichert (right) maintained a friendship with Robert Frost.

By Naomi Zeveloff

Published April 02, 2013, issue of April 05, 2013.
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“You’re making a wooden figure out of this man,” he told his father. “He’s a living, flesh-and-blood person.”

Victor Reichert seemed to take personal offense at Frost’s critics. Lawrance Thompson’s skewering three-volume biography of Frost, published between 1966 and ’76, hit the rabbi harder than Frost’s own death, his son said. In order to restore Frost’s name, Reichert agreed to be interviewed for Andrew R. Marks’s book “The Rabbi and the Poet,” published in 1994, four years after Reichert’s death, by Andover Green Book Publishers.

Jonathan Reichert had his own relationship with Frost. During his summers in Vermont, he would bring the poet freshly caught trout — with the heads still on, as Frost preferred — in order to bribe his way past his secretary and gatekeeper, Kay Morrison. Reichert occasionally had lively debates with the poet about the role of science in society. “Frost talked 98% of the time, but of the 2%, I got 1,” he said. Now 81, Reichert recites Frost poems by memory.

Jonathan Reichert hopes that the new archive will shed light on his father’s “small but not insignificant” influence on Frost. A great lover of libraries, Victor Reichert would have been “thrilled” about the collection; but to him, Frost’s legacy was his poetry more than his relationships. “Dad would say over and over to me, ‘It’s the poems that matter,” Reichert said. “‘It’s the poems. That’s what will last.’”

Naomi Zeveloff is the deputy culture editor of the Forward.


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