AJCommittee honors Litwack family


The seventeenth annual Netzach Award for community service was presented Sunday evening to Michael and Leslie Litwack and their family by the St. Louis Chapter of the American Jewish Committee. Over 110 members, family members and friends of the Litwack family attended the gala tribute dinner at the Coronado Ballroom in St. Louis.

The Netzach, or “Life Blood” Award is presented annually by the St. Louis Chapter of the American Jewish Committee (AJCommittee) to a local Jewish family whose community service spans generations. Michael Litwack, past president of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis, and Leslie Litwack, past president of the JFed Women’s Division, have held numerous leadership positions in the local and national Jewish communities, as have their children and children-in-law, all of whom were honored with the award.


The attendees were welcomed by Bob Newmark, who received the Netzach Award with his family in 1998.

“I can think of no more deserving family to receive the Netzach Award than Michael and Leslie Litwack and their entire wonderful family. I can recall the Netzach dinner honoring my family back in 1998 very clearly, as it took place just one day after the birth of our daughter,” he said. “The Netzach Award was very meaningful to my entire family, and I hope it will be so for Michael, Leslie and their family.”

Words of tribute to the Litwack family were also offered by Rabbi Jeffrey B. Stiffman, Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Shaare Emeth, who “pinch-hit” for his friend, Rabbi Bernard Lipnick, Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation B’nai Amoona, to which the Litwacks belong. “We all admire Michael and Leslie…tzedakah is their passion, and they work with such vision,” Rabbi Stiffman said.

Matthew J. Coen, president of the St. Louis Chapter of the AJCommittee, welcomed those in attendance and offered his own words of tribute to the Litwack family. He also outlined the national and local missions of the AJCommittee, which nationally is now in its 102nd year.

“Over the years,” Coen continued, “AJCommitee’s focus has become worldwide in scope; we are sometimes called ‘the State Department of the Jewish community.’ At United Nations gatherings in New York, the only entity with more meetings than AJCommittee is the State Department itself.”

Looking towards the coming year, Coen said AJCommittee would focus on “two major issues of concern, that are related. First, is our concern over Iran, which is not only a threat to this country, but an existential threat to the State of Israel. We are mobilizing efforts to bring financial and diplomatic pressure to bear against the regime in Iran, an issue which is complicated of course by oil. This concern is addressed in our second major focus, that of energy needs and alternatives. While we have ample sources of energy for electricity, our transportation needs depend too much on oil.”

Calling the Netzach Award dinner “a wonderful event,” Coen said, “The Netzach event is all about family, and we honor a wonderful family, the Litwacks, tonight, and we offer them warm congratulations.”

Rosalind and Sanford Neuman, and their daughter Shula Neuman, 2006 recipients of the Netzach Award, officially presented the 2007 Netzach Award to the Litwack family.

“If you could imagine our Jewish community as a Major League Baseball team, the Litwacks would never be offered to be traded with other communities in exchange for several others,” said Rosalind Neuman. “The Litwacks, like Albert Pujols with the St. Louis Cardinals are truly franchise players.”

Taking note of the fact that their niece, Naomi, married the Litwacks’ son, Jason, Rosalind Neuman added, “Because we are truly ‘family,’ you might think we are biased, but Sanford and I have had the privilege of working with Mike and Leslie on so many projects through the years. They are intensely involved, not passively involved in the causes they support. Their energy level is awesome, as reflected in Mike’s service as Jewish Federation president, and Leslie’s presidency of the Federation Women’s Division, and so many other leadership positions over the years.”

Accepting the award on behalf of his entire family, Michael Litwack said, “Thank you, Roz, Sandy and Shula, and thank you on behalf of Leslie and our entire family. When our kids saw the list of past honorees, they asked why we had not been honored years ago, and I said they were waiting to see how you would turn out, and Leslie and I are proud to say that our boys have done very well indeed. We are pleased that our son Matthew and his wife Jessica, who reside in University City, and Jason and his wife Naomi, are here with us this evening from New York City, where they live. We are proud both of our sons, and also of the accomplishments of our daughters-in-law. They also are being honored with the Netzach Award, which means Life Blood, and which is all about family and Jewish continuity.”

Litwack noted that his wife, Leslie, had selected a quotation for the invitation and program from the late Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel: “Every individual is a pillar on which the future of Judaism rests. There is not vicarious Judaism…each Jew is obliged to say: Into my hands has been given the future of the entire people.”

Litwack added, “For us, our kids benefitted greatly from their experiences at B’nai Amoona, including Hebrew School, United Synagogue Youth, and Camp Ramah, where our son Jason met his future wife Jessica. At college there was Hillel and summers abroad. Both Jason and Matt are active with their respective Jewish federatons. Jessica is on staff at Hillel in St. Louis, and Naomi spent a semester abroad in Israel.”

Litwack added that he was “very grateful to my wife Leslie for her support and participation, and to our sons for understanding our schedule of many meetings, which never prevented us from attending their important activities at synagogue, sports events and others.”