Opinion | Community Leader Leaves Unfinished Business

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By Lou Balcher

It was a shock that Garry Miller, 70, succumbed to a heart attack on Aug. 10.

A staunch Jewish community leader in Bucks County, Miller took pride in rising in the ranks of the Federation’s Young Leadership Council. He enjoyed sharing stories of the growth of the Bucks Jewish community, and his role in the formation of the Bucks branch of the Philly Jewish Federation, which in the late ’90s and early 2000s had its own staffed office.

Miller was remembered by many.

“I will remember Garry fondly as a dedicated volunteer leader in our Jewish community,” said Addie Lewis Klein, director of community engagement for the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. “I could always count on Garry to show up and share his point of view. Back in 2016, we arranged six open community conversations in a two-month period, all over Greater Philadelphia, and Garry came to four of them. To me, that demonstrated true dedication.”

Alan Sheinberg, outgoing co-chair of the Bucks Kehillah, counted on Miller sharing a perspective and strong advocacy for issues for community and Israel at regular Kehillah meetings.

“Garry had a good, caring feeling for the Jews of Bucks County,” he said. With his presence as a community leader at the June Bucks Festival, Sheinberg continued, “When we needed help, he was there.”

In recent months, Miller added to his repertoire of community involvements by becoming co-chair of the Israel Forum, joining with the leadership of Albert Algazi. The grassroots Israel education and advocacy forum for Bucks County has been producing programs countywide for the last decade in order to make sure that residents are informed of the latest issues and concerns regarding Israel.

My own connections with Miller have been as a fellow traveler in Israel and Jewish community activism, based in Bucks County for more than 26 years. I have known him to be a tireless and always counted on community presence. In recent years, seeing him at regular Kehillah meetings, at the festival, the Israel Forum, I would also see him at other Jewish organizational meetings, whether it was Zionist Organization of America, Israel Bonds or the Jewish National Fund.

We would find each other, then he and I would spend a few minutes to discuss the latest community concern and strategize on how to engage synagogues and organizations for collaborations, particularly in matters of support for Israel, as well as young adult involvement.

At the point of his untimely passing, Miller was working with Algazi and some 30 other Israel Forum activists on producing an event on Sept. 11 at 7:30 p.m. at the Newtown Jewish Chabad Center, 25 N. State St. The Israel Forum will be viewing the documentary Hate Spaces narrated by Alan Dershowitz, and have a panel discussion on the challenges Israel is facing on college campuses.

Before the event, there will be a moment of silence to honor Miller’s memory.

In remembering his untimely passing, I can hear Miller’s voice encouraging us to redouble our efforts to work together for Israel and our Jewish community. He left us suddenly and way too soon. In the echo of the void of his presence, I hear the call to proceed with his unfinished business in support of community and Israel.

Lou Balcher served from 2004- 2013 as director of academic affairs to the Consulate General of Israel to the Mid-Atlantic Region.

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