Henry Taub, 1927-2011
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Henry Taub, 1927-2011

Henry Taub praised for role in Synagogue Leadership Initiative

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Judy Beck, left, and Lisa Harris Glass File photos

Henry Taub, who among other accomplishments founded the Synagogue Leadership Initiative of UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey in 1997, was lauded on Monday by its current and past director.

Judy Beck, who was SLI’s director for 12 years, told The Jewish Standard that “in my mind, Henry really was a visionary. We were the first community in the country that had a federation-based synagogue-improvement program. He came to the fed with the idea,” she noted, and “he stayed close to it until he was ill. There wasn’t a meeting he wasn’t at. SLI was his baby – he was very proud of it.”

The funding for SLI originally came from the Henry and Marilyn Taub Foundation; now 50 percent of it comes from UJA-NNJ, according to Beck.

Listing some SLI projects, she noted that it had guided 13 congregations through strategic planning, teaching them “how to run more efficiently, be more innovative, be fiscally responsive, use new technology.” Also, she said, “we started several initiatives in community, including Bonim Builders,” a volunteer group that repairs and renovates homes of people in need, “and we took over and ran Shalom Baby,” in which volunteers welcome Jewish newborns and their families, “when other people wanted to see it die.”

Noting that SLI has arranged yearly rabbinic retreats, Beck added, “Rabbis across the streams have developed relationships, as have the members of various congregations.”

Beck said she is “totally grateful to him – he allowed me to create a program that is really stellar. He was always very OK with any mistakes we made because we learned from them. He allowed us to take risks and experiment and try new things.”

Also, Beck said, he had a “great sense of humor. He was very intelligent – you had to do your homework before you met with him.” But with all that, he was “very humble – he didn’t want accolades.”

Lisa Harris Glass, who became SLI director in July, also described Taub a “visionary.” Calling him “a unique and generous philanthropist” she added that “from the vantage point of SLI, Henry and his wife Marilyn really had an understanding of what it means to be a part of a Jewish community and [how important it is] that there should be a Jewish community that is thriving and serving the people who live within it. And they illustrated that commitment,” she pointed out, “through the philanthropy that has supported all of the works, not only through SLI but through the federation as well.”

“He was a wonderful person,” Beck said. “I was honored and fortunate to have the opportunity to work with him. The Jewish community has lost a great person and a great advocate. I don’t think they make people like that anymore.”

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