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One Year Later…

December 7, 2008

In a rare occurrence, I have back to back personal posts, and for those who regularly read this blog for my other essays, I apologize.  For those who have read this blog form its beginning, you know that it was inspired  by my friend Jon Barkan z’l who passed on from this world one year ago today.  There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about my friend, and what we all miss in his absence.  Nevertheless, while we honor those who have died with our memories, we also honor them with our lives and the way we live them. Even as we find ourselves sometimes lingering in the shadow of death, we must draw ourselves into the light of the living – to fill voids, to create anew and to celebrate all that life has to offer. I am certain that is what Jon would say  –  and that is what I now say as well.

This morning I was given the privilege of addressing a group of pro-Israel activists at a local AIPAC function. It was fitting that this gathering occurred on the first secular anniversary of Jon’s passing – it reminds us that important work must go on, life must go on, and that it it incumbent upon all of us to recognize both.

Below is the text of my comments delivered this morning.

Comments Delivered to Atlanta-Area AIPAC Breakfast Briefing on 12/7/08

My friends, I am glad to be here with you today, in a room full of pro-Israel activists who have taken time out of your busy lives to spend some time learning about and advancing the interests of pro-Israel politics in our nation. And even as we gather together, it is not lost on any of us that there is one dear friend that is not in the room with us today – our friend Jon Barkan.

One year ago today, we woke up to a world without Jon walking among us.  It was hard for us – it is hard for us – to fully reconcile the loss we all suffered, the loss his family suffered, the loss our community and Jon’s many communities suffered.  There is rarely a day when we don’t speak of our memories of Jon, and the ways he impacted all of us.  And never a day has passed where we haven’t felt diminished by the loss of his ability to do so much, to be so much, and to help so much.

Nevertheless, we have soldiered on with the memory and the legend of Jon in our hearts and minds.  And we have soldiered on in a world that, in many ways, has changed around us.  We have a new US administration and new elections in Israel. We face new economic challenges and new and increasing challenges in the international arenas.

However, there is much about our world that has remained the same. There is still a need to recognize that Israel has numerous enemies that pose serious threats to its safety and its very existence. There is still a need for a strong US/Israel alliance, with substantial economic, diplomatic and military ties.

There is still a need for a room full of pro-Israel activists to gather to learn about ways to support pro-Israel policies and the elected officials that establish those policies.

So in the days following Jon Barkan’s death, many of us recognized that perhaps one of the best ways to honor our friend – a friend who was an enormous pro-Israel advocate, was to inspire and recognize other pro-Israel advocates to do what Jon did – work tirelessly to strengthen the bonds between our two nations.

Through the generosity of several individuals and families, including many in this room, the Jon Barkan Israel Advocacy Award was established.  The award shall be given annually to an individual living in the Atlanta, Georgia metropolitan area who is under the age of 40 and has demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to Israel by means of leadership, activism or involvement in organizations or activities that strengthen the bonds between Israel and Atlanta-area Jews.

Criteria for selection includes demonstration of significant leadership ability, level of passion and involvement in pro-Israel causes, and the potential for greater pro–Israel leadership responsibility in the future. Nominations will be solicited from across the Atlanta metropolitan area and the selection process will be administered by local professional and volunteer AIPAC leadership.

The annual recipient of the award shall be formally recognized at the annual Atlanta-area AIPAC Community Event and, along with a plaque commemorating the award, the recipient shall receive a $1,000 stipend to be used for attendance to the AIPAC Policy Conference (held annually in Washington D.C.) in the year in which the award is given.

To date, over $23,000 has been pledged to endow the fund. Contributions are tax-deductible, and to the extent any of you are doing year-end tax planning with respect charitable contributions, contributions can be made to the fund at any time for any reason. My wife Marci and I have done exactly that, and I invite you to join us in that honor of our friend.

The process for selecting the first award recipient is already underway and if you have any nominations, the professionals at AIPAC will soon be communicating with you the opportunity to share such nominations.  The recipient will be announced at the community event this spring.

When speaking of a righteous Jew who has passed from this world to the next we say – zichrono livracha – let his memory be a blessing.   May that be the case with our friend Jon Barkan, together let us remember on this day and each day that his memory is a blessing.  And let us ensure, with the Jon Barkan Israel Advocacy Award, that his legacy continues to be an inspiration to future generations of pro-Israel advocates.

Advocates just like you.

Thank you.

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