Tuesday, November 24, 2009


A great leader passed away last week -- not just a great leader, a great philanthropist, a great Zionist. a mensch. As the Jewish Agency's Chairs described him: "Mendel was a giant among men, an innovative industrialist who used his wealth for the betterment of his fellow Jews, countrymen and the State of Israel. At the young age of 73, Mendel was taken from his family and all of us who loved and respected him.

Mendel not only talked the talk -- and he could, with devastating wit and insight, truly do the talking -- he walked the walk as so few have. He made aliyah and maintained homes in South Africa, Jerusalem and Caesaria. He made his mark everywhere he went. With Max Fisher, z'l, he leaves behind not only a great record of achievement but a beautiful family dedicated as well to the creative survival of our People.

Mendel did not suffer fools gladly...or at all. I remember our public and private debates over what Mendel perceived as the Jewish communities of the United States failures to support JAFI. But, as my friend Bruce Arbit also remembered, Mendel was always willing to engage, to listen and always was appreciative of those who dedicated themselves to the Zionist dream and to the building of a strong Israel.

If there was a way to spice up debate at a JAFI Executive or Board Meeting, Mendel, with a remark or a brief speech could always find that path. He provoked us, he urged us on and he led by the example of his own life and his love of family and Israel and the Jewish People. All of us who knew Mendel were strengthened by his strengths, infused with his enthusiasm and love. He will be missed by all of us who crossed his path.

May Jill and his family be blessed by their memories of Mendel, as are we all.


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