(JTA) — Gordon Zacks, a founder of the Republican Jewish Coalition and an unofficial adviser to George H.W. Bush, has died.
Zacks, a businessman who also was chairman of the Florence Melton Adult Mini-School named for his mother, died Saturday at home in the Columbus, Ohio, area following a brief illness. He was 80.
He was among the co-founders of the RJC in 1985.
“We are deeply saddened by Gordy”s passing. He was a great friend,” RJC National Chairman David Flaum said. “As one of the early leaders of the RJC, Gordy helped to establish the organization as a big tent, where Jewish Republicans from across the Republican spectrum could engage in building, on a national scale, a respected and effective Jewish Republican presence in our party and in our community.”
For Bush, as vice president and president, Zacks served as an unofficial adviser and confidant on Israel-U.S. relations, the Middle East peace process, Soviet and Ethiopian Jewry, as well as the political landscape of the American Jewish community.
Bush said in a statement, “Barbara and I were deeply saddened to learn that our dear friend Gordon Zacks has passed. We are saddened because he was one of my staunchest and earliest political supporters, and both a trusted and respected advisor on our critically important relationship with the State of Israel. I leaned on Gordy frequently, and valued his advice.”
Zacks traveled to more than 100 countries and made over 100 trips to Israel and the Middle East.
The Melton schools provide pluralistic adult Jewish education in more than 60 cities in four countries have over 30,000 graduates.
Zacks was board chairman and CEO of his family’s business, R.G. Barry Corp., for 25 years until 2004, after which he was named the company’s non-executive board chairman. He held the latter post until his death.