Michael Kotzin, former head of Chicago Jewish federation, dies

Marcy Oster

(JTA) — Michael Kotzin, the former head of the Jewish United Fund of Chicago and an author, has died.

Kotzin, who died Sunday after suffering from a serious illness for several years, served the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago since 1988, most recently as the special consultant to the president and formerly as executive vice president from 1999 until 2011.

“Our community, the Jewish federation world, indeed the entire Jewish people have benefited in ways almost too numerous to recount from Michael’s deep knowledge, keen insight, steadfast commitment, and brilliant mind,”  Bill Silverstein and Steven Nasatir, the chairman and president, respectively, of the JUF/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, said in a statement. “He was indefatigable, investing unparalleled passion, energy and focus in every facet of his work. His uncompromising fairness and decency were hallmarks of his character.”

Kotzin also formerly served as director of JUF’s Jewish Community Relations Council and, before joining the federation, was Chicago Regional director of the Anti-Defamation League. Prior to coming to the ADL, he was a faculty member in the English department at Tel Aviv University.

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He was the author of the 2014 book “On the Front Lines in a Changing Jewish World,” a compilation of essays, opinion pieces, speeches and reviews he wrote during the past 25 years. Kotzin was also the author of a book about the novels of Charles Dickens.

“He was an innovative thinker and widely-respected authority on a wide range of issues, including global anti-Semitism, the threat of a nuclear Iran, Israel-Diaspora relations, and intergroup relations,” Silverstein and Nasatir said. “In close collaboration with lay leadership and his professional colleagues, he helped set the JUF/Federation agenda in many arenas, from public affairs, to communications, to the academic study of Israel.”

Kotzin is survived by his wife, Judy; their three children and their grandchildren.

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