Amy Kass’s family and friends, students and colleagues, will testify to her many virtues—her love and devotion to husband, children, and grandchildren (so amply reciprocated by them in these last painful months), her keen intellect and sensibility, her faith in Judaism as a heritage and ethic, her passion for her country. For this and much else, I count Amy as a dear and memorable friend. More memorable still is another rare and precious virtue—a mind and heart at one.
In her reflections on the teaching of the Great Books, Amy made a large point of the lesson she imparted to her students – that the principles they learned from the Ancients were meaningful only if they were applied to their personal lives. Philosophy, she insisted, was not merely an academic discipline but a course of instruction in practical ethics as well. And ethics was more than morality in the usual sense; it meant living a life that was spirited, soulful. When Amy is remembered and commemorated as a superb teacher, as she is by generations of devoted students, it is this vision of learning and living they have in mind.
As Amy personified that meeting of mind and heart, so did her marriage with Leon. Most marriages, it is my impression—very good marriages—are complementary, husband and wife bringing different talents and qualities to the marriage, different means to a harmonious end. Amy and Leon were alike, in means and end, in mind, and heart. This is evident not only in their personal lives but in the books they collaborated on, the seminars and meetings they presided over, their joint courses at the university. If they sometimes differed in approaching a subject, it was only to make their common conclusion more compelling. I have witnessed and been amused by this again and again in our dinner conversations. They might start by offering a somewhat different interpretation of a book or event, but only to reconcile that difference by dessert time.
As I so often felt, in those dinner talks, the spirit of my husband hovering over them, so I now hear his voice joining me in paying homage to Amy, a rare human being and a very dear friend.