Remembering Michael Rukin

I am sorry to report that Michael Rukin died on February 18. He was only 70. Michael was an important leader for many organizations including Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Boston (CJP), Hillel and the Hebrew Immigration Aid Society. I’m sure much deservedly will be said about him in the days to come. I just want to share my own lasting impression of him.

Back in 2006, CJP released its 2005 demographic study of the Boston Jewish community. A key finding was that 60% of interfaith families in Greater Boston were raising their children as Jews, compared to a national average of 33%. I took the position, including in an op-ed with the URJ’s Kathy Kahn in the Forward, that the 60% rate was a result of CJP’s allocating 1% of its annual spending towards engaging interfaith families in Jewish life.

We have a bulletin board in our office and put a copy of the op-ed on it under a sign that read, “Look what 1% can do!” Michael was at our office around that time and when he saw that sign, he attached a large yellow post-it note on which he wrote, “THINK ABOUT WHAT 10% WOULD DO!” with his initials and the date.

That note, which is still on our bulletin board, sums up for me Michael’s passionate advocacy for our cause. He was a rare bold thinker who understood the importance of vastly increased attention to efforts to engage interfaith families Jewishly. For that and many other reasons, he will be sorely missed.

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3 thoughts on “Remembering Michael Rukin

  1. Mike was a dear friend, and I know his strong commitment to an open Judaism that embraces interfaith families. He was a leader in so many ways, and in so many areas. His memory is a blessing. I’m proud to have known him.

  2. The [url=http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/obituaries/articles/2011/02/21/michael_rukin_70_entrepreneur_who_put_his_leadership_skills_to_work_for_philanthropies/]Boston Globe obituary[/url] includes this comment from Barry Shrage, president of CJP:
    [quote]“What really characterized him was his compassion for the outsider, his total commitment to finding a place for outsiders on the inside of the CJP and the inside of the Jewish community,’’ said Barry Shrage, president of Combined Jewish Philanthropies. “He was a real force behind our outreach to interfaith families, he was a real force in our outreach to gay and lesbian households. He was totally committed to his outreach to synagogues and his belief that there was a place for everybody and every institution and organization.’’[/quote]

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