Al Chernin, Soviet Jewry Advocate, Dies

Albert Chernin, executive vice chairman emeritus of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs who helped lead the Soviet Jewry movement, has died.

Chernin died in his sleep on Nov. 26, 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.

“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.”

“Al Chernin brought to the field of Jewish community relations a keen, analytical mind as well as a fierce commitment to the Jewish people, Israel, social justice, and American constitutional democracy. He was a man who cared about principle and about people. I will miss him as a friend and as a wise colleague,” said Larry Rubin, former executive vice chair after Chernin.

JCPA Senior Vice President Martin Raffel 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. 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.”

Chernin was a tireless activist for individual rights, both in the United States and abroad and co-author of “A Second Exodus: The American Movement to Free Soviet Jews.” 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 in Chernin’s memory.

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