Fontbonne president honored by JCRC

BY ROBERT A. COHN, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF EMERITUS

The re-election of attorney Leonard Frankel as president and the presentation of the Norman A. Stack Community Service Award to Fontbonne University President Dennis C. Golden were highlights of the 70th Annual Meeting of the Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis.

The JCRC’s annual gathering brought together 193 people, including not only representatives of the 19 Jewish organizations under its umbrella of cooperation, but representatives from a broad cross-section of the total community, including Christian, Muslim and other faith groups, African-Americans and representatives of numrous interfaith, intergroup and community relations organizations. The meeting was held in the Crystal Room of the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Clayton.

Leonard Frankel, a St. Louis attorney long active in Jewish and general organizations, and a strong advocate of civil rights and civil liberties, was re-elected to a second one-year term as JCRC president. Frankel’s name, and those of other nominated officers and board members were placed in nomination by Terry Bloomberg, immediate past president of the JCRC and chair of its nominating committee. Sheila Greenbaum, president of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis, offered warm greetings to the attendees, congratulated Frankel and the other officers and said “the JCRC provides a vital part of the Jewish Federation’s infrastructure. The Federation’s strategic plan is based on achieving results, and the JCRC is ideally suited to serve as a linchpin in that process.”

Frankel and Greenbaum praised the work of Batya Abramson-Goldstein, executive director of the JCRC and her professional staff for their hard work on the many aspects of the JCRC’s mission, which includes fostering good relations among all groups within the community, combatting bigotry, advocating for Israel and serving as a major organizer and member of the St. Louis Save Darfur Coalition.

Michael N. Newmark, past president of the JCRC, presented the Barbara and Michael Newmark Emerging Leader Award to Dr. Andrew Rehfeld, associate professor and director of undergraduate studies in political science at Washington University and an active member of the council of the JCRC. The award recognizes emerging young leaders in the JCRC and includes attendance at the Plenary, or annual conference of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the parent national body for 13 national and over 120 local Jewish community relations agencies.

Dr. Dennis Golden, president of Fontbonne University, received the JCRC’s Norman A. Stack Community Service Award, named in honor of the late Mr. Stack, longtime former executive director of the JCRC. Dr. Golden was honored for fostering positive Jewish-Catholic relations through the special dedicated semester on Jewish Studies at Fontbonne University, one of the most complete such programs of Judaic studies at an American Catholic University.

In his remarks accepting the award, Golden said, “When I read the letter from Lenny Frankel, JCRC president, and Batya Abramson-Goldstein, executive director, informing me about the Norman A. Stack Award, I was almost immediately moved to tears. Let me explain. At Fontbonne University, certain of our core values are excellence, integrity, respect, diversity, community, justice and service. These and our other core values are based on our mission stratement which states that Fontbonne is a Catholic university rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition. On an institutional basis, that tradition is a main source of our intellectual and spiritual heritage.”

Golden added, “On an individual basis, however, it is more than that to me: it is a family matter. Let me briefly explain. My maternal grandfather came from Cork, Ireland, and my maternal grandmother came from Genoa, Italy. But my Dad’s side of the family was different because both of my paternal grandparents were Russian Jews from the region of Belarus in the city of Vitebsk. Perhaps like many of you, when I was growing up as a young boy in New York City, I remember bits and pieces of conversations about their alternatives, which were dire, to say the least. For Samuel Golden and Tillie Fahrman, their destiny could have been prison, the gulag or the firing squad — just because they were Jews. There was, however, one additional alternative, namely exile with predictable poverty. Thankfully, they chose wisely and left Russia eventually arriving at Ellis Island.

“The rest, as they say, is history, and that’s why my tears of thanksgiving flowed when I read Lenny and Batya’s letter of Dec. 27, 2007. So today, I say ‘thank you’ grandma and grandpa Golden, and to paraphrase my non-relative Harry Golden, ‘yes’ only in America!”

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