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Ben Zion Leuchter, Jewish activist, dies at 74

NEW YORK, Jan. 22 (JTA) – Ben Zion Leuchter, who devoted his life to journalism and Jewish activism, died Jan. 14 at the age of 74 after suffering from ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Leuchter, who lived in Key Biscayne, Fla., at the time of his death, was a longtime resident of Vineland, N.J. In 1949, he became editor in chief of the Vineland Times-Journal after the sudden death of his father, Max, who had founded the southern New Jersey paper in 1923 with his wife, Cecelia.

He was editor in chief for the next 28 years.

As part of his duties, he wrote a daily column, “Keeping Up With the Times,” that ran on the paper’s front page, continuing a tradition launched by his father.

Last fall, Leuchter paid tribute to his father’s columns in a book, “How a Small Town Editor Saw the World: The Story of Max Leuchter and the Vineland Times Journal.” The book is available at www.smalltowneditor.com.

In 1978, he became the publisher of a group of weekly newspapers in western Massachusetts.

In addition to being dedicated to journalism, Leuchter spent much of his adult life serving the Jewish community.

In 1974, he was named the founding chairman of what is now known as CLAL – The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.

From 1988 to 1992, he served as national president of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, in the midst of two of the most dramatic emigrations of Jews in the 20th century: the Ethiopian Jewish immigration to Israel and the exodus of hundreds of thousands of Jews from the Soviet Union.

He also served for many years as a JTA vice president and as chair of JTA’s Editorial Policy Committee. The founding chairman of the Cumberland County Jewish Federation, he served on the first Young Leadership Cabinet of the United Jewish Appeal and later as a UJA honorary national vice chairman. He also served on the boards of numerous other local and national Jewish organizations.

Well over a hundred local and national figures turned out for Leuchter’s funeral in Vineland, including Miles Lerman, former chair of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, who gave a moving eulogy and said he had chosen to be at the funeral rather than at a White House ceremony to which he had been invited. A memorial service was also held in Miami on Sunday.

Leuchter is survived by his wife, Magda, and four daughters.

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