Jeremy Spinak: a personal tribute from an old friend and colleague

November 21, 2018 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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The federal Liberal member for Berowra in NSW Julian Leeser pays tribute to Jeremy Spinak.

Jeremy Spinak and Julian Leeser

He writes: “I am devastated by the untimely passing of my friend and former NSW Jewish Board of Deputies President Jeremy Spinak aged 36.

I had the privilege of serving on the Executive of the Board of Deputies under Jeremy’s presidency. Jeremy united a fractious Executive and got people to work together.

Jeremy did not come to the office in easy times. Almost immediately on taking office he was hit with the Kashrut Commission issue, the Gaza War, the Sydney Morning Herald Cartoon Incident, and the campaign which had been run against Vic Alhadeff.

Jeremy rose to the challenge dealing with each of these issues in turn.

When Jeremy was assembling his executive he came to me and asked if I would consider becoming chair of what is now the community relations committee.

It was the committee Jeremy had chaired.

This sounded like a lot of work to me and I was not sure I had the time to devote to it.

I have to say Jeremy charmed me into it. That was the sort of bloke he was. He was someone who could always enlist you in a good cause.

Jeremy had a vision to deepen the Jewish Community’s relationships with other communities.

Jeremy’s strategic vision has been implemented initially under my leadership and then under Gael Kennedy, the indomitable Lynda Ben Menashe and the committee. And now relationships with the Indian, Armenian, Korean, Chinese, Assyrian, Catholic and Uniting Church, to name a few, are so much stronger as a result of Jeremy’s strategic vision.

For me working on this committee was the single best preparation for my work as a member of parliament.

So I have a lot to thank Jeremy for.

Over the last few years Jeremy has done more personal kindnesses for me than I can say. He was always there to encourage me in my political activity or provide counsel when our son was born early and had to go into special care.

Or when he checked in on me when I had a hard day in Canberra.Even during the leadership challenge this year he offered me good advice and picked the eventual winner.

Somehow Jeremy always knew when to call and what to say. Maybe it was because we shared a birthday, May 25.

His encouragement was a great comfort to me.

Jeremy achieved more in his short lifetime than many of us ever will.

I had been looking forward to seeing Jeremy over the summer to discuss the state of Australian and US politics of which Jeremy was a keen observer and occasional participant.

Everyone who knows Jeremy will be devastated by his passing, none more so than his wife Rhi and his beautiful twins Grace and Michael and their broader family.

When Grace and Michael are older, if they ask me something about their dad, I will tell them that Jeremy was a man of great humour, intelligence and foresight.

He had an amazing sense of civic duty and a concern for and pride in the Jewish people. He had extraordinary personal warmth.He had a wonderful way of dealing with people.

He could break the tension in difficult circumstances with a joke or an impersonation. He had the capacity to bring out the best in the people who worked with him.

And if he asked you to do something he would always back you up.

Jeremy never forgot who he was, why he was here, or where he wanted to go. He was a mensch and was truly one of the best people I know.

As we mourn Jeremy’s loss we must redouble our efforts in the way we interact with each other, in the way we maintain our focus in the way we work together to serve our community, our state and the nation.

If we do that then we will well and truly honour the memory of Jeremy Spinak. Zichrono Livracha May his memory be a blessing.

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