Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Passing of Stanley Abramovitch z”l

JDC Global Staff

From: Penny Blumenstein
Alan H. Gill

Re: The Passing of Stanley Abramovitch z”l

Date: May 13, 2013

It is with a profound sense of sadness and loss that we inform you that Stanley Abramovitch z”l has passed away in Israel. He was 93 years old and was buried today in Israel – the 4th of Sivan 5773.

Stanley’s story is really the story of JDC. As we approach our 100th anniversary, it is incumbent upon us to note that this unforgettable Jointnik has been a constant force in our mission for more than 65 years.

Stanley was a Polish refugee living in London who answered a call for volunteers to help the survivors of the Holocaust. It was June 1945 when he was dispatched first to Paris and then to Germany on his first JDC assignment. There, at the tender age of 25, he became JDC’s representative in the Fohrenwald DP (Displaced Persons) Camp (a photo of him – second from right -- at the Camp with other colleagues is attached); his formidable charge was to help the Jewish DPs rebuild their lives.

As Stanley would tell it, he had no idea what “rebuilding DPs’ lives” would entail. He found that the United Nations was providing for their most basic needs. His role, and that of JDC throughout the DP camp network, would be to supplement the basics. That meant extra rations if possible, vocational and other training for those who had none, and perhaps most important of all, it meant restoring a sense of normal Jewish life—community and spirituality—to those whose faith in humanity itself had been shaken or shattered completely.

Anyone who reads Stanley’s memoir, From Survival to Revival, is affected by the deep poignancy of what he encountered. Yet Stanley so distinguished himself in these most trying of circumstances that after four years in Germany, JDC chose him for an entirely different assignment: as Country Director for Iran.

That meant moving to Tehran, the capital of a country so unfamiliar to Stanley that he had to look for it on a map. There he found a community mired in the most intense poverty imaginable. He responded by establishing a range of programs targeted particularly to help Jewish children develop physically, intellectually, and Jewishly.

After four years in Iran, he returned to Paris to join the massive reconstruction effort known as the “Jewish Marshall Plan,” designed to help Europe’s Jewish communities rebuild their institutions.

His job was in education; his goal was to help rebuild the decimated human infrastructure of Europe’s formal and informal Jewish education systems. Among other things, this involved training teachers and principals and helping them develop balanced Jewish/secular curricula.
He was also involved for many years in Jewish education in North Africa (Morocco and Tunisia) where he developed close relationships with Jewish educators as he worked to improve the Jewish schools.

Stanley became the quintessential JDC field worker, combining hardiness with sensitivity, idealism with pragmatism. And then there’s the commitment—the tireless dedication and unflagging belief that drove him and others like him to make the world a better place, no matter how great the odds against them.

When he made aliya in 1972, it was to continue with another aspect of JDC’s post-Holocaust reconstruction—helping to recreate in Israel the great centers of Jewish learning, 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. By then, too, he had become revered as the consummate field operative—the go-to worker who proposed solutions when historic challenges presented themselves.

And then the Soviet Union crumbled. Faced with the needs of millions of Jews for so long cut off from their people and from their heritage, JDC turned to Stanley to be part of the “proto-SUT,” the first Soviet Union Team that fanned out across this unknown territory to find these Jews and help them.

Stanley’s FSU role brought his life’s work full circle—from Jewish recovery in the DP camps to Jewish revival across the former Soviet empire. Modern Jewish history is truly embodied in the professional life of this remarkable Jointnik.
Stanley continued his work until he officially retired in 2008. Even then, he traveled to the FSU on JDC’s behalf for as long as he was able, and he continued coming to the office two days a week as a consultant and mentor to his colleagues.

How sad to have lost one of JDC’s righteous giants. Our memories of him will be treasured always – a good, kind, smart, gentle man who filled his long life with countless good deeds on behalf of the Jewish people. He was a Jew blessed with the zest for life and a deep religious faith in God. He was the consummate raconteur, and how we have treasured the priceless stories he told, with both passion and humor, of the people and places he encountered during his years of JDC service, compiled into his book, so appropriately called: Lighting Up the Soul.

We extend our heartfelt condolences to his beloved wife, Naomi, to his son and daughter and grandchildren. Condolences may be sent to Naomi and the family at: P.O.Box 10685, Ramat Gan, 52006, Israel

May the Abramovitch family be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

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