Thursday, February 21, 2008

BOB, z'l

When you say the name "Bob" in the Chicago Jewish community, there has been no doubt during my decades of involvement about whom you were speaking. Everyone knew Bob, everyone respected Bob and everyone had the sense that Bob cared about them. Bob was my friend, my mentor, my leader as he was to so many of us for so many years. And, now, he has been taken from his family and from us, his extended family, so suddenly that few of us had the chance to say good-bye, to tell Bob how much he, his life, his leadership inspired us to strive for great things, to believe that we could accomplish great deeds, as he did so often.

His life with Barbara was so beautiful and full. Skip and Liz and Deborah took Bob's life example and incorporated the beauty of it into their own lives and into the lives of their families. My wife, Roberta, and I remember so well, so many years ago, our first Young Couples Retreat at Camp Chi in Wisconsin, where Barbara and Bob were our leaders and demonstrated how leaders treat and nurture those placed in their care. I remember Missions to Israel led by Bob on which I was a participant, where Bob demonstrated leadership skills that I hope I have incorporated into my life. I served on my Federation Board under Bob's Chairmanship and remember full well, so many years ago, before it became part of the "itinerary," Bob and Steve Nasatir journeying to Ethiopia to see first hand the plight of a surviving remnant of our People. I remember the stories of Bob's chairmanship of the UJA Young Leadership Cabinet -- I am reminded of that time by so many in the communities I have visited over the years who shared their memories with me and asked me to bring back their regards to Bob. And I remember sitting with Charles Bronfman, Joel Tauber, Marvin Lender, Carole Solomon and Steve Solender debating who could succeed Carole as UJC National Campaign Chair when Vicki Agron said: "What about Bob"? And all of us, almost in unison said: "What a spectacular idea." And I remember Bob's joy in accepting the Chairmanship, his triumphs and frustrations in that role, but always his burning, continuing desire to make a difference for our People that ennobled him and inspired us.

Bob never hesitated to "speak truth to power" -- if our goals were set too low, we heard about it; if he felt our commitments too small, we heard about it; if he felt a greater effort was needed, we heard about it. It was wholly predictable, knowing Bob, that long in the past he was one of the "Young Turks" who demanded a leadership seat at the Council of Jewish Federations. Today, many of us who toiled in the vineyards of Jewish life with Bob, depart for Jerusalem and the meetings of the Jewish Agency. There is nowhere else in the world, outside the bosom of his family, where Bob wanted to be than in Jerusalem. There was no leadership role he did not serve and serve forcefully with dignity and love.

Even in his final illness, Bob was imbued with the sense of optimism for which he was known. This past Monday he e-mailed one of his friends, a wonderful Chicago professional with whom Bob had partnered and mentored, about his treatment and his optimism about the weeks of treatment ahead. It was not to be. Bob brightened so many days for so many of us "..fair as a star when only one is shining in the sky." Bob gave so many of us, Bob's memories will give us, so much joy but as it has been written "...there is no joy the world can give like that it takes away."

Bob, we were blessed by your friendship and your leadership, we are sustained by our memories, as we must be. Zichron livracha.


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