Monday, October 19, 2015


Our dear friend and constant professional partner at the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, Michael Kotzin, died this week after battling what proved to be his final illness with the great strength and dignity he brought to everything he did in life. Michael touched so many lives through his work, his brilliant writing and he made a difference as a great professional. 

There is so much I could write about Michael Kotzin but I could not do better than the tribute from his colleagues:
"It is with profound sadness that we write to tell you of the passing of our beloved friend and colleague, Michael Kotzin. For several years Michael suffered with a serious illness, which he and his family faced with great courage, optimism and dignity.

Our community, the Jewish federation world, indeed the entire Jewish people have benefited in ways almost too numerous to recount from Michael’s deep knowledge, keen insight, steadfast commitment, and brilliant mind. He was indefatigable, investing unparalleled passion, energy and focus in every facet of his work. His uncompromising fairness and decency were hallmarks of his character. 

Michael served JUF since 1988, most recently as the Special Consultant to the President, and formerly as Executive Vice President. He was an innovative thinker and widely-respected authority on a wide range of issues, including global anti-Semitism, the threat of a nuclear Iran, Israel-Diaspora relations, and intergroup relations. In close collaboration with lay leadership and his professional colleagues, he helped set the JUF/Federation agenda in many arenas, from public affairs, to communications, to the academic study of Israel.

Michael also served with distinction as Director of JUF’s Jewish Community Relations Council and, before joining the Federation, was Chicago Region Director of the Anti-Defamation League. Prior to coming to the ADL, he was on the faculty of the Department of English at Tel Aviv University.

We were fortunate to have had the opportunity to celebrate with Michael his myriad contributions at the launch in 2014 of his book, On the Front Lines in a Changing Jewish World (a compilation of essays, opinion pieces, speeches and reviews he wrote during the past 25 years).

Beyond his professional accomplishments, Michael was a trusted friend, a proud Jew with a profound sense of history and identity, and a mensch. He had a huge heart, a quick wit and a hearty laugh. 

We miss him deeply and offer our deepest condolences to his wife Judy; to their children Abigail, Daniel, Joshua; and to their grandchildren. We know how much he loved you all, and count ourselves fortunate to have been part of his extended family. 

Funeral services will be held at 10:30 am on Tuesday, October 20, at Moriah Congregation, 200 Taub Dr., Deerfield, Ill. Interment will be at Westlawn Cemetery. Information regarding shiva will be provided. 

The family has asked that contributions be made to The Michael C. Kotzin Fund for Israel Studies of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago. This fund will perpetually extend his ground-breaking work of bringing visiting Israeli scholars and writers to teach on Illinois campuses. Contributions to the Fund can be sent to 30 S. Wells St., Rm. 5045, Chicago, Il, 60606.
         May Michael’s memory be for a blessing."

I was privileged to have been part of the process at the time that Michael was hired to lead the Chicago Jewish Community Relations Council but I was more privileged to have known Michel, to have learned from Michael and to have called Michael Kotzin, as did so many of us, my/our friend.

Michael Kotzin, baruch dayan emet.


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