Alan Pollack, a pro-Zionist university professor who for several decades prominently promoted the cause of Israel at college campuses and Jewish organizations around the country, died of a heart attack on April 18 in his midtown apartment. He was 77.
A native of the South Bronx, he was a leading figure in the Zionist movement in the United States from the 1960s until the 1980s, energized by the threat to Israel in the buildup to the 1967 Six-Day War and by Israel’s subsequent victory.
“He was a deeply committed Zionist … an incredibly charismatic and eloquent speaker,” said John Ruskay, former executive vice president of UJA-Federation of New York. “He was a very proud Jew and a very identified Jew,” said Rabbi Irving “Yitz” Greenberg, former president of the Jewish Life Network/Steinhardt Foundation. “His Judaism was about morality. He was a verbrennter [zealous] Zionist.
“His legacy is a vision [of liberalism] that didn’t give a free pass” to the Palestinian cause and political enemies of Israel, Rabbi Greenberg said. “The Palestinians were not able to twist human rights” into a means for opposing Israel.
Mr. Pollack, who lived in Israel for several years in the 1970s and 198os, was also an active supporter of the Habonim and Labor Zionist movements, Jewish National Fund, Israel Bonds and the Soviet Jewry movement.
An art collector, he attended Princeton and Columbia universities, and taught Russian history at Columbia, retiring about a decade ago.
As a founder of American Professors for Peace in the Middle East, a now-defunct organization that marshaled support for Israel in the academic community beginning in 1967, he capitalized on the era’s liberal student culture, mobilizing support around the country, writing and coordinating pro-Israel seminars. “He tapped into this tremendous interest, … making the professors group one of the most influential [grassroots Jewish] organizations” of its time, Rabbi Greenberg said.
As an existential danger to Israel mounted in early 1967, “he decided that Israel needed to be actively supported” in the academic community,” Rabbi Greenberg said. “We all feared that another Holocaust was coming.”
Mr. Pollack is survived by two nephews, Vance and Adam Klein, and a niece, Janine Klein.