Monday, August 24, 2015


When our friend and mentor, Jerry Bubis, passed away on August 21, we lost an incredible friend and a wonderful mentor. Jerry will be missed by everyone whoever knew him and learned from him...I in particular. As Rabbi David Ellenson eulogized him, Jerry embodied a "...unique combination of charisma, warmth, intellectual acuity and boundless energy." He will be missed most by his beloved Ruby and his family and, then, by anyone who ever sat with Jerry and learned from him.

I first met Jerry Bubis, as did so many of us, through his written works on our federation system -- some of the most important analyses ever written. Many were viewed as "critical;" most would say that they were spot on. Then I met with Jerry when I first joined the Board of the Jewish Agency for Israel where I sought Jerry out and an abiding friendship began. As Larry Moses described Jerry: "He was our teacher, our light and our example." He was all of that for me and so much more.

In addition to our visits in Jerusalem, when I visited Los Angeles, I sought Jerry out time and again. Even when illness forced Jerry into a wheelchair, his energy was undeniable -- as he told me in a phone conversation this year: "My body may be weakened but my mind is bursting with ideas." Jerry was a life force; and his presence in Jewish communal life will be missed as no other. There was not a single time that I spoke with Jerry that I did not come away having learned something -- what a great teacher he was!!

As we completed the merger process that led to the formation of what is today the Jewish Federations of North America, Jerry approached me to ascertain whether I and other lay leaders who led the merger process might support the research that he and his great friend and colleague Steven Windmueller proposed into the process and outcome of that process, I jumped at the chance. The end-product of Steve's and Jerry's prodigious interviews and research -- From Predictability to Chaos not only foresaw the seeds that we planted that helped to place the organization in its deplorable place of today but was rejected by too many communal professional leaders without having read it. Jerry and I would frequently commiserate over the reality of JFNA.

To me, to the end Jerry remained the "Young Turk" that he was in 1969 when he joined with 100s of leaders in demanding that the then Council of Jewish Federations allow them a seat at the CJF leadership table. I have treasured the copy of Bubis' 2005 autobiography Guide Yourself Accordingly: A Memoir" that Jerry gave me with his handwritten note: "To your own self be forever true, Richard." But all the more so I will forever treasure the memories I have of a true hero of Jewish Communal Life and a hero in modern Jewish history, my friend, our friend, Jerry Bubis.


I would be terribly remiss if I did not add a reference to the incredible tribute authored by his professional partner in so many things and his great friend, Steven Windmueller which appeared in today's ejewishphilanthropy --

And let me thank all of you who have written me and called with your own beautiful memories of this great leader.


Anonymous said...

Rich, Thanks for expressing what all of us who knew Jerry feel at his loss. It is just further shameful that the best that JFNA could do in memory of this giant of Jewish communal life is a couple of throw-away lines in FedWorld.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Anonymous 1. That JFNA can offer multi-page eulogies for the departed loved one of a JFNA Chair unrelated to federation or JFNA leadership, you would have thought that it could have found someone who knew Jerry Bubis to offer a eulogy even if no one at JFNA even knew who this great leader was.