From Irv Smokler, President and Steve Schwager, CEO
It is with profound sadness that we inform the JDC family that Eugene (Gene) J. Ribakoff passed away early Friday evening, April 9th, in Palm Beach. Gene was 84 years old.
Gene, born and raised in Worcester, Massachusetts, first joined the JDC Board in 1986 and quickly began to take on leadership roles that clearly reflected not only his leadership abilities, but also the Jewish soul of a unique personality who was devoted to helping the Jewish people around the world.
He effectively chaired JDC's Israel Committee, our Central and Eastern Europe Committee, and the Transmigrant Committee, where he oversaw the emigration of hundreds of thousands of Jews from the former Soviet Union and elsewhere.
Never weary of responsibility, he became JDC's thirteenth President from the beginning of 2001 through December 2004, and then served as the Chairman of the Board for the next four years. During his presidency, he was a caring and effective JDC ambassador who traveled to Federations throughout North America and to countries around the world, always seeking to highlight the needs, to strengthen partnerships, and to celebrate JDC's programs of rescue, relief, and Jewish renewal.
Equally important, he was a generous philanthropist who set the finest example for others to emulate.
Gene was a straightforward, no-nonsense advocate for the Jewish global family and an esteemed friend whose thoughtfulness and wise counsel were treasured.
While we shared his attention with a myriad of other organizations and institutions—World ORT, the United Way of Palm Beach County, Brandeis University, Massachusetts General, and the Palm Beach and Boston Federations, to name just a few—he often said that his tenure as JDC's President was "the best job in the Jewish world." Those of us, both professionals and lay leaders, who had the good fortune to know Gene will always remember him as a true gentleman, a good person, and an exceptionally successful businessman who, through his generosity, his kindness, and his devoted leadership, made a difference in the lives of so many in our global Jewish family.
Always impeccably dressed and with a lighter side that loved good cigars, fine wine, and the Boston Red Sox, we looked forward to spending time with him. The Jewish world has lost one of its best.
Gene was also a visionary; he recognized that loving kindness towards the Jewish people was a passion to be shared with the next generation, which is precisely what he did with his children and grandchildren. He clearly demonstrated the importance of Jewish peoplehood by example.
Please join us in extending our heartfelt condolences to Gene's wife, Stephanie; to his son and JDC Board member Charles Ribakoff and his wife, Patty; to Gene's daughter and JDC Board member Betsy Sheerr and her husband, Richard; to Gene's seven grandchildren: Ben and his wife, Elizabeth; Deborah and her husband, Zach; Jack, Corky, Nicki, Lauren, and Melanie; and to Gene's three great-grandchildren: Charles, Mia, and Noah.
Funeral services were held yesterday in Palm Beach, with burial taking place today in Worcester, MA.
May the family find comfort and peace and may Gene's memory be for a blessing for all those who were fortunate enough to know him.