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This post originally appeared onÂ www.edumundcase.comÂ and is reprinted with permission.
Editor’s note:Â InterfaithFamily is heartbroken over the recent loss of longtime supporter Jonathan Woocher. He made an incredible and lasting impact on our organization and the greater Jewish community for which we are forever grateful.
The Jewish world has lost a truly remarkable leader with the death of Jonathan Woocher on July 7. Many tributes and memories can be found on Jonâ€™sÂ Facebook page, aÂ statementÂ from the Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah which he led and more recently served as Senior Fellow, aÂ JTA story in the Forward, aÂ statementÂ from the Jewish Federations of North America, onÂ eJewishPhilanthropy, and more.
In addition to being one of the smartest and most enlightened thinkers in the Jewish world, what stood out most about Jon Woocher to me was how kind and supportive he was, of me personally, and of the work of InterfaithFamily. Looking through my old email I find that as early as 2005, when I asked Jon for help to make IFFâ€™s first new hire since it was founded in 2002, he said â€śvery nice â€“ kol hakavodâ€ť and had helpful suggestions to offer, as he did several times over the years in connection with other hires and potential funders and partners.
Jon replied to one of our regular updates in 2008 with â€śincredibly impressiveâ€ť and again, what must have been a favorite phrase, â€śkol hakavod.â€ť When we launched InterfaithFamily/Chicago in 2011 as our first direct service, on-the-ground operation, Jon said â€śWow!Â This is great news. Mazal tov and yasher koach. I look forward to seeing this initiative unfold.â€ť In response to a 2014 report from Jodi Bromberg, Jon said â€śWhat an exciting report. Kol hakavod to you, Ed, and the staff and Board for continuing to build on IFFâ€™s solid base. Itâ€™s gratifying to see how many communities are now recognizing the valuable contribution IFF can make on the ground locally.â€ť
All of this encouragement might not seem particularly special, as many people have commented on how supportive Jon was to them. But the difference is that the cause of engaging interfaith families Jewishly has not been a popular one. I often felt I was knocking my head against walls. Support from Jon Woocher, such a highly regarded scholar and professional, meant a great deal to me â€“ it inspired me to keep working to advance the issue. And when the issue finally started to get more positive attention, Jon was there to help, gracing the October 2016 Interfaith Opportunity Summit as a panelist.
In 2015 when a group of leaders issued their Statement on Jewish Vitality,Â J.J. Goldberg wrote in theÂ ForwardÂ that the two main criticisms (though for different reasons) were from me and from Jon. I told Jon I felt that I had been elevated into really good company. In his typical humble way, he said he liked the company he was in, too â€“ but truly I was the one who was honored to be mentioned along with him.
My recollection is that the first time I ever spoke to Jon, he mentioned that his wife Sherry thought highly of InterfaithFamilyâ€™s content and used it in her own work. I am sending my very sincere condolences and sympathy to Sherry and her family on their terrible loss.
Postscript July 11: You can read Joe Kanferâ€™s incredibly meaningful eulogyÂ here.