WASHINGTON (JTA) — Albert Chernin, who helped lead the movement to free Soviet Jewry, has died.
Chernin died in his sleep on Tuesday, according to his daughter Anne Chernin.
Chernin headed the National Jewish Community Relations Council — the original name of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, or JCPA — from 1975 to 1990. He also led the Jewish Community Relations Councils in Indianapolis and Philadelphia.
JCPA’s highest annual award, which has been given to recipients including Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Senators Carl Levin, Frank Lautenberg, and Ron Wyden, is named for Chernin. Chernin also co-authored the book “A Second Exodus: The American Movement to Free Soviet Jews.”
“Albert D. Chernin was the professional presence of Jewish community relations when I began my national involvement in 1979,” said Arden Shenker, past chair of the JCPA. “I vividly recall our leading the U.S. delegation to the prime minister’s solidarity conference in 1990. Al’s presence then, as always, made a difference to the tone and the content of the proceedings. He had an unerring sense of what to say and how to say it, on behalf of the American Jewish Community. He was a legend in our time. We miss him.”
Martin Raffel, JCPA’s senior vice president, remembered when Chernin worked on the Soviet Jewry movement’s massive march on Washington in December 1987. “He was at the forefront of planning this historic event and directing the agency’s efforts to bring tens of thousands of people from across the country to the mall that great day,” Raffel said. “This was also the period of the first intifada, a divisive time for Israel and for us. His leadership and mentorship were invaluable to me as a professional, new on the national Jewish scene, dealing with complex Middle East issues.”