Sunday, May 20, 2018


When I learned of Shoshana Cardin's death, I was flooded with emotion and so many memories of this great, this historic leader of our communities and the Jewish People. In my time in Jewish communal leadership no one other than Max Fisher, z'l, had a greater impact on us, our institutions and the relationship between the Diaspora Jewish communities of the United States and Israel.

Shoshana didn't just destroy every glass ceiling she confronted, she just viewed them as opportunities to demonstrate that leadership isn't determined by gender but by an iron will and the courage of one's convictions.

I first met Shoshana as did so many of you, while serving as a Board Member of the Council of Jewish Federations during her Chairmanship (yes, Shoshana retained the title "Chairman" not "Chair," because she knew what she had accomplished...and so did we). 

Serendipitously, Shoshana was the speaker at the Annual Meeting of Metropolitan Chicago at which I was installed as the Board Chair and there began my leadership path that I took in Shoshana's wake for years to come -- I, like you, was in awe of this great leader. I was privileged to learn from her on Missions, in the deliberations that assured the independence and focus of what is now the NCESJ, and, with her blessing, when I succeeded Shoshana as its Chair during Operation Exodus, on the Boards and Executive Committees of the United Jewish Appeal and the United Israel Appeal. In every leadership role -- be it in Jewish life or in the State of Maryland -- Shoshana earned the respect that would eventually lead to her Chairmanship of the Conference of Presidents of American Jewish Organizations.

And I watched with incredible pride as Shoshana, who loved Israel as one who was born there and who helped build the country with total commitment, successfully mobilized our communities and led the successful fight  in the Office of the Prime Minister and on the floor of the Knesset to forestall devastating proposed changes to the Law of Return. 

That fight was followed but a few years later when, in her role as Chair of the Conference of Presidents, she spoke truth to power standing down George H.W. Bush after the President had angrily stated that Aipac, specifically, and American Jewry, generally, were a "Fifth column" in the United States.

During the merger process, Shoshana, as UIA's outgoing Chair with her strong right arm, UIA Executive Vice-Chair, Danny Allen, anticipated the potential diminution of American Jewish support from the absorption of UIA within what was to become JFNA. Leading that merger process I will forever regret the conflicts I created with Shoshana whose prescience on the outcomes became more and more evident over every year since. UIA...Shoshana... had demanded a "sunset provision" that would have restored the merging parties to the status quo ante pre-merger were the terms of the merger not met. That didn't happen and I apologized to Shoshana personally, directly as well as on these pages for my part in what we have become. 

Each of us have our heroes in modern Jewish life. On the lay side, my "Mt. Rushmore" has four -- Max Fisher, Corky Goodman, Marvin Lender and Shoshana. I am just one of so, so many whom Shoshana encouraged to express our leadership in Jewish organizational life. A long time ago, back in the 1990s, the Jewish Women's Archive wrote:
"A savvy, tough, and elegant woman known by presidents, dictators, and almost everyone else simply as Shoshana, she has become perhaps the most widely respected and successful lay leader in the Jewish community of the 1980s and 1990s."
"Savvy, tough, and elegant" -- a perfect description of this great leader. this great woman, this incredible Zionist, who inspired generations.

Thanks to David Mallach, the Executive Vice-Chair of the United Israel Appeal, all of us may watch the stream of Shoshana's funeral at

May her memory be for a blessing for her family and for all of us who mourn her passing.



Anonymous said...

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Richard, I too thank you for your beautiful tribute to an incredible leader and person. Shoshana inspired me as she clearly did you. She was a leader by example, by her vision and by her tenacity. She has proved to be irreplaceable.