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The Eulogizer: Community worker Ronni Handelman, scientist Jack Hanoka, parks builder Pierre Joske

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JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Eulogizer is a new column (soon-to-be blog) that highlights the life accomplishments of famous and not-so-famous Jews who have passed away recently. Learn about their achievements, honor their memories and celebrate Jewish lives well lived with The Eulogizer. Write to the Eulogizer at eulogizer@jta.org. Read previous columns here.

Ronni Handelman, 62, community volunteer

Ronni Handelman, a longtime Jewish community volunteer and social worker in St. Louis, died May 13 at 62.

“Nothing stopped Ronni from rolling up her sleeves and doing what needed to be done," said Karen Kalish, who with Handelman co-founded St. Louis Cultural Leadership, an organization devoted to training African-American and Jewish teens as community leaders. "She repeatedly demonstrated that she had a deep sense of social responsibility and was committed to social action.”

Handelman held many Jewish community positions, including president of the Jewish Federation’s Women’s Division and vice president of the Jewish Federation in St. Louis. She was a member of the National Women’s Board of United Jewish Communities (now Jewish Federations of North America), vice president of the Jewish Community Relations Council, board member of the St. Louis and national Hillel, and a member of the African American/Jewish Task Force of St. Louis.

In 2007, she received the St. Louis federation’s Woman of Achievement for Social Responsibility Award.

Barry Rosenberg, executive vice president of the St. Louis federation, said Handelman’s death was "an enormous personal and communal loss. For decades, Ronni provided warm, inspired, energetic and selfless leadership to the Jewish and larger community."

Handelman was born in Chicago and received undergraduate and graduate degrees from Washington University in St. Louis. Her family has established a lung cancer research fund in her name at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis.

Jack Hanoka, 76, solar energy inventor

Jack Hanoka, a materials scientist and inventor with dozens of patents in the field of solar energy, who also was a Chabad activist, died May 8 at 76.

Hanoka was a “pioneer among modern scientists to delve into exploring the interplay between science and Torah” who was encouraged to remain in university by the Lubavitcher rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, in the 1960s.

Hanoka worked with Chabad to explain in scientific language Schneerson’s “reading the biblical story of creation literally” and the rebbe’s argument that the discovery of fossils “is by no means conclusive evidence of the great antiquity of the earth.”

Hanoka co-founded solar product manufacturer Evergreen Solar and was the chief technology officer at the Massachusetts start-up 7 AC Tech when he died.

Pierre Joske, 82, built public parks

Pierre Joske, who led efforts to create an “open space district” in Northern California’s Marin County and created regional parks during his term as the county’s parks director, died May 8 at 82.

When Joske became Marin County parks director in 1966, he “promptly scrapped” a plan that failed to provide for recreation along California’s Highway 101, launched numerous parks, urged the purchase of 6,000 acres on Mount Tamalpais, expanded bicycle, riding and hiking trails, and helped preserve Bolinas Lagoon, a 1,000-acre tidal estuary that includes rare habitats.

In an interview available online, Joske talked about developing Marin County parks from small parcels that weren’t more than “a parking lot and a piece of beach.”

Joske was born in Germany, the son of a lawyer, and fled to France with his family to avoid Nazi persecution. After World War II he was a refugee, and later worked as a gardener and fruit farm manager. Joske served in the French and U.S. armies and attended college in France, New York and California. In 1983 he started an eyeglass business.

 

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