(The following is the text of a letter that I sent to our National Jewish Coalition for Literacy Affiliates in the wake of the passing of our founder, Leonard Fein.)
August 14, 2014
Dear NJCL Affiliate Leaders and Friends,
As you may have already heard, this morning we lost our founder and my dear friend, Leonard Fein z”l. As the most recent NJCL chair, I know you share in my grief at the passing of one of the true tzaddikim of our generation and join me in sharing our heartfelt condolences to all of his loved ones.
Over 16 years ago, Leibel took me aside during a meeting at the Religious Action Center and said “David, you live in the Hartford area, don’t you? When you return home, I need you to start a literacy effort there.” As may know, Leibel was not someone who took no for an answer. And so, in only a few months, the Hartford Jewish Coalition for Literacy was born as one of the first NJCL pilots. Along my JCRC partners, we created a vibrant Jewish community effort that continues to serve at-risk K-3rdgrade children to this day, standing as a lasting tribute to Leibel’s legacy. In addition, I had the blessing of being able to work with and learn from one of my heroes and to be able to know him not just as my teacher, but also as my friend.
Many of you have similar stories and the same can be said of each and every one of our affiliates: Each NJCL affiliate is a lasting tribute to Leibel’s legacy and his mission to give every child a chance to succeed academically and in life. He continues to live on, in part, through the amazing work each and every one of you is doing.
A tribute in today’s forward noted“Across the decades he (Leibel) built lasting institutions for the progressive Jewish community. In 1975… he co-founded Moment Magazine with Elie Wiesel; In 1985 he started MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger; In 1997 he set up the National Jewish Coalition for Literacy. Each of these organizations in its own way preserves his memory: without food we cannot live, without education we have no future and without thoughtful conversation we cannot thrive.” In the coming days we will be looking to you to help determine how we can preserve our portion of this three-fold blessing that Leibel has left us. For now, we wish days of comfort and healing to his family and all who loved him.
May his memory forever be for blessing.
Rabbi David C. Levy