Friday, August 28, 2009


Our great friend and great leader, Alex Grass, succumbed after a long battle, to illness yesterday. All of us who knew Alex and, in particular, those who worked so closely with him in Jewish life, feel a great sense of loss. Baruch dayan emet.

Alex as National Chairman of the United Jewish Appeal pushed many of us then younger men and women into leadership roles. It was Alex who first asked me to serve on the UJA Executive Committee where I first observed his passion and compassion, his warmth and great sense of humor. He was a true mentor and friend to so many. After his service as UJA Chair, Alex remained a leader in UIA. During the merger process, at a critical moment in time, Alex stepped into negotiate with me UIA's entry into the merger -- it was an easy negotiation after months of strife as Alex always had a view of the big picture.

When Corky Goodman ended his terms as JAFI Board Chair, Alex had concluded his as Chair of Hebrew University. It was an easy choice for JAFI and Alex was pulled into the Chairmanship because he felt the obligation to respond to the call of the Jewish People. During Alex's term, many of us will remember our raucous small dinners in Jerusalem where great cheer and camaraderie prevailed late into the nights even as we remember the serious problems that JAFI confronted and Alex's staunch defense of the institution -- a defense that continued until his death -- ONAD, declining market share, a lack of UJC institutional support. Alex faced every issue with dignity and a quiet passion.

While Alex served as JAFI Board Chair, he began the process of governance reexamination and he was responsible for the creation of JAFI North America. I was honored when he asked me to create a lay structure for JAFI NA; and Alex was always there with his support, his concern, his counsel.

I, like so many others, was blessed to have walked in the shadow of this giant. May his memory be for a blessing.

Shabbat shalom.


1 comment:

joebrown42 said...

I met Alex Grass a few times when I worked at Hebrew U.
The word in Hebrew for my impression is קטונתי - katonti, I am belittled by his presence, so to speak.
The point is that this man was such a true visionary and realist, together, that he could inspire anyone about the crucial interests of the State of israel and its institutions - from the lowest-level employees at an organization to the wealthiest philanthropists from around the world.
He was one of the few donors whm I completely believed when they spoke about the purpose of giving, as a whole, and to his specific beliefs in his donations and leadership efforts.
This world is a lesser place without this great man.