From the hundreds of bodies that packed into Mount Sinai Synagogue in Brooklyn Heights, it was apparent Hope Reichbach – at only 22 – had touched many lives.
The synagogue was overflowing with mourners, some wearing sunglasses to hide tears, others exchanging warm embraces and condolences. It was a who’s who of New York City politics inside the synagogue, with everyone from Borough President Marty Markowitz to Council Speaker Christine Quinn in attendance. In a room of nearly a thousand people, it was clear, as one college friend said, that Reichbach was a “unifying force.”
Police were called to Reichbach’s Schermerhorn Street apartment on Thursday afternoon, where she was pronounced dead at the scene. The cause of her death has not yet been revealed, though no criminality is suspected. Reichbach was communications director for Councilmember Steve Levin and a budding politician in her own right.
“To me, she was the kid sister that I never had. She was so dedicated to me, and believed in me,” said Levin, holding back tears. “There’s no way to describe the hole in all of our lives, that is so vast and dense.”
Mourners praised Reichbach’s political ambitions but also what she had already accomplished.
“Perhaps she is not a star, but a comet, whose blaze lit up the sky, but was extinguished much too soon,” said her father, Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Gustin Reichbach, who, with his wife Ellen Meyers, bravely and tearfully faced the crowd because “it was what Hope would have wanted.”
Reichbach was born and raised in Boerum Hill and attended New York University. She was on track to a bright future, with impressive accomplishments under her belt despite her young age. She first joined Levin’s staff during his 2009 campaign and became his communications director after the election. Last fall, she ran for district leader in the 52nd Assembly District, winning 37 percent of the vote against veteran incumbent Jo Anne Simon.
And she was already planning her next move, to run for District Leader again – this time to win.
Despite the very somber occasion, the crowd at times turned to laughter instead of tears.
Friends remembered Reichbach fondly for her wisdom, gusto and determination, as well as for her fun loving personality.
“Hope collected friends the way she collected shoes – and she also liked to collect her friends’ shoes,” said a college roommate.
The unifying sentiment was that though Hope had gone too early, those who knew her were grateful that they had.
“The truth is none of us should be here today. We should be out enjoying the beautiful day,” Levin said. “Hope should be here.”