From The Birmingham Jewish Federation
March 3, 2009
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  • NO ORDINARY JOE

  • SECRETARY OF STATE CLINTON IN ISRAEL

    US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton today emphasized the necessity of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to the Jerusalem Post.

    In her first visit to Israel as Secretary of State, Clinton also congratulated Israel on its recent elections, and stressed that the Obama administration would cooperate with the new Israeli government, according to the Post.

    Click for more.


    NO ORDINARY JOE










    Joe Bronstein, as featured in a United Way ad several years ago.




    The following was submitted to Update by Samuetta P. Nesbitt, senior vp for communications & marketing for United Way for Central Alabama. It's a great piece about Birmingham Jewish community member Joe Bronstein, who retired recently from volunteering at United Way.



    By Samuetta P. Nesbitt snesbitt@uwca.org

    United Way recently said goodbye to a special volunteer. He's retiring to enter a new phase in his life. At 92, he decided now is the time to have some fun. I'll talk about the "fun" later.

    Joe Bronstein moved to Birmingham in 1992 to be with his daughter after retiring from a career in social work in New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Delaware. He wasted no time in putting his skills to work. He was 75, a widower, and he saw a lot he could do in the "deep South."

    Joe lived independently in an apartment in the Lakeview Community and drove to United Way each day where he worked from 10 am to 3 pm Monday to Friday in his own office. There was no pay. His boss was Harry Brown, senior vp for planning, who appreciated Joe's diverse executive experiences in social work in large cities.

    He wanted to produce something tangible, so Joe researched the Internet and daily newspapers for emerging social trends and published them once a month in a newsletter. That newsletter went to staff and UW agency executive directors.

    RIGHTS AND PRIVILEGES

    Joe had most of the rights and privileges of an employee. He attended staff meetings, going away parties and birthday celebrations, and, from his retirement money, he gave his "fair share" each year to the United Way campaign.

    Some of the staff would visit him at home and share a glass of wine with him on special occasions. Then-United Way president Dan Dunne would often seek Joe's opinion on many issues. Since we all wanted to know what Dan knew, we followed and consulted with Joe, too.

    It's the intangibles that Joe will be remembered for. During the holiday season, I bought a Hanukah menorah and dreidel to put in our lobby because I wanted Joe to see his holidays were important too. It started me collecting holiday symbols from different cultures.

    I also remember trying to set him up with my single mother and Joe telling me it wouldn't work. "Because she's Black and Methodist?" I asked. "No, because she's too old for me -- I like younger women," said Joe.

    When there was a Jewish holiday, Joe would announce that he would not be in the office the next day and help many of us connect with his Jewish traditions.

    HISTORY LESSONS

    We loved his history lessons. I considered myself sophisticated in my knowledge of his culture and religion and current events in Israel, but hearing it from Joe was a different kind of lesson. It took Joe to show me my knowledge was shallow and I didn't have a clue.

    As the years passed and he could no longer drive, Joe would take a taxi or a bus to work. He loved his independence more than anything; no retirement or nursing home for him. It took an illness that led to hospitalization and rehabilitation in a nursing home to finally get him into a facility.

    Once there, his own biases were shattered as he discovered equally-educated, active residents, three balanced meals a day, a Nintendo Wii and lots of single Southern women who "loved" his Boston accent.

    We're losing Joe to a new phase in his long life. He's made a choice to retire to a different type of social work...to have some fun and thankfully it was his choice.

    At his farewell party, we all clung to his every word as he told us of his early days working with Jewish immigrants and using the Yiddish language to connect with them. He also talked about his first exposure to racism.

    The impact he has made is invaluable. We can't begin to measure the positive presence he's had here at United Way. I'm proud to work for an organization that recognized his worth and allowed him to work into his 90's, never patronizing him.

    We're a better organization because of this special volunteer. Luv ya Joe! (And my mom looks a lot younger than she is.)

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