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Leonard Fein

(1934- August 13 2014)

Leonard Fein was a progressive Jewish activist, writer, professor, and philosopher who died in August 2014 at the age of 80. Fein wrote articles into his old age on a regular basis for The New York Times, The New Republic, The Nation, and the Los Angeles Times.  His two books, Where Are We? The Inner Life of America’s Jews and  Israel: Politics and People are useful reference sources. 

Leonard taught Political Science at MIT in the 1960's and was a beloved professor.  He also held the position of Deputy Director of the MIT/Harvard Joint Center for Urban Studies at that time. In 1970 after leaving MIT he went on to Brandeis to be a professor of Politics and Social Policy, and Contemporary Jewish Studies. 

Fein founded the non-profit MAZON: A Jewish Response To Hunger after being inspired and disgusted by the Ethiopian famine of 1983-85 which lead to the deaths of over 400,000 individuals.  MAZON strives to provide nutritional balance, education, and long term vision for the future  to impoverished and hungry people all over the world based on the Jewish principles of tzedakah and tikkun olam.  With offices in Los Angeles California and Washington DC, MAZON repeatedly recieves 4-star ratings from the independent non-profit Charity Navigator and A+ ratings from CharityWatch and The American Institute for Philanthropy.  Leonard Fein imagined the organization as a bridge between the international Jewish community and people affected by hunger everywhere. 

Moment is a non-profit magazine started by Leonard Fein and Elie Wiesel in 1975, dealing with Jewish culture, politics, and religion.  The magazine is published by the Center for Creative Change and is not explicitly affiliated with any larger Jewish entity.  Leonard Fein was the editor and publisher of Moment for 12 years and continued to be a regular contributor after his tenure there.  Recently a section of the magazine called "Israel's Arab Citizens" has provided a look inside the cultural, social, and economic life of Israel's Arab residents.  The magazine and it's journalists have been recognized for their outstanding journalism practices, and Moment continues to be a successful and influential source for information and opinion on Jewish issues. 

The National Jewish Coalition for Literacy was Leonard's brainchild later in life, inspired by President Clinton's statement that the ability for children to read by the time they graduate third grade should be a "national goal". Leonard saw the NJCL as a way to mobilize the Jewish community to help at-risk children become better students and citizens by promoting literacy.  After securing support and funding for the program from a number of Jewish agencies, organizations, and individuals (including Steven Spielberg) around the country, the program launched in 1997 in Boston. 

Currently there are NJCL programs in 47 communities across the nation, with 12,000 regular volunteers each donating an hour or more per week of their time to the cause.  The organization estimates that about 1/4 of their tutors are over the age of 65, which facilitates constructive dialogues between the older generation and elementary age children.  The cost of all of the affiliated programs totals over $1 million per year. 

Leonard's work has been well recognized in the community and he was the recipient of many awards including: the Ameinu Dreamers and Builders Award, an Honorary Doctorate from Hebrew Union College, the National Foundation for Jewish Culture award for achievement in Jewish scholarship, JCPA's Chernin award for a lifetime of contributions to social justice, and the University of Chicago's alumni award for "creative leadership in public service that benefitted society and reflected credit on the University". 

Leonard Fein died on August 13 2014 at the age of 80. 

Sources:Forward, National Jewish Coalition for Literacy, MAZON, Moment Magazine