Mourning a True Jointnik

May 13, 2013


The JDC family throughout the world mourns the passing this week in Israel of Stanley Abramovitch (z”l), a legendary 93-year-old figure who has been a force for good in JDC’s global mission for 65 of this organization’s nearly 100 years. Stanley’s life story is really the story of JDC from World War II to the present, having begun his first JDC assignment in the Fohrenwald DP (Displaced Persons) Camp in Germany in June 1945.

A mere 25 at the time, Stanley was charged with the daunting task of helping Jewish Holocaust survivors to “rebuild their shattered lives” — and the fervor and dedication with which he plunged ahead would come to characterize his entire career. He became the quintessential JDC field professional, combining hardiness with sensitivity, idealism with pragmatism, and steadfastly determined to make the world a better place, no matter how great the odds.

Stanley’s four years in Germany was followed by four years in Iran, where he established programs to address critical health and educational needs of desperately poor Jewish children. Jewish education in all its forms soon became a lifetime preoccupation. Returning to Europe, Stanley trained teachers and principals as part of a massive “Jewish Marshall Plan” that helped rebuild Jewish communities, and for many decades he worked to improve Jewish schools in the small remaining communities of North Africa. And when he made aliya to Israel in 1972, Stanley continued with another aspect of JDC’s post-Holocaust reconstruction—helping to recreate the great centers of Jewish learning, the yeshivot, that Hitler had destroyed in Europe.

By 1988, Stanley had already spent an entire career with JDC and had long passed the age when most of us retire. But then the Soviet Union crumbled. Faced with the needs of millions of Jews cut off for decades from their people and their heritage, JDC turned to Stanley, the go-to worker who had solutions whenever historic challenges presented themselves. Stanley’s role in the former Soviet Union over the next two decades would bring his life’s work full circle—from Jewish recovery in the DP camps to Jewish revival across the former Soviet empire.

How sad to have lost one of JDC’s righteous giants — a good, kind, smart, gentle, deeply religious man, who filled his long life with countless good deeds. How we have treasured the priceless stories he told, with passion and humor, of the people and places he encountered during his years of JDC service, compiled into two books and highlighted so poignantly in a Yom Kippur feature on CNN.

Modern Jewish history is truly embodied in the professional career of this remarkable Jointnik. His was a life that truly “lit up the soul,” and we are all diminished by his passing.

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