Remembering Uri Orbach

Beloved Israeli political leader and Gvanim graduate

Uri Orbach, z"l

Following a long battle with a rare blood disease, Israeli leader and all-around mensch Uri Orbach passed away in February at the young age of 54. A successful journalist and writer, Orbach turned to politics six years ago, soon after he participated in the Federation’s Gvanim program, a one-year action-oriented leadership development program gathering key leaders from different religious denominations and economic sectors who are committed to building a just, democratic and pluralistic Jewish state. He served as a member of the Knesset for the Jewish Home party and as Minister of Pensioner Affairs.

Orbach's loss was mourned across the Israeli political spectrum and, in typical Uri Orbach style, momentarily united a fragmented nation ahead of this month’s heated national elections. Orbach was eulogized as a man who sought to build bridges between the different segments of Israeli society. Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon noted: "Uri possessed the qualities to bring together religious and secular, left and right, Jews and non-Jews. He never spoke harshly and always respected others. Even those he disagreed with."

Dani Elazar, a fellow Gvanim 6 graduate, vice president of the Shalom Hartman Institute and Director of the Be’eri program, shared fond memories during their Gvanim experience:

It’s a sad day. Seven years ago we met Uri in Gvanim 6, when he was still a journalist. Uri was a man who loved people, with a naughty smile always hidden under his moustache, full of creative ideas and the skills to execute them in good faith, with the utmost of respect for the other, and all wrapped up in sharp wit and humor. Above all, a real mensch, the best in Israel’s public sector. Even to disagree with Uri was a great pleasure, due to his cleverness, honesty, interest, wit and depth. It’s clear to see the genuine sadness felt by Israelis today, a sadness that crosses sectoral lines, which is so indicative of Uri’s way. We, the Gvanim 6 cohort, have “our” Uri – together we studied, discovered and had fun times.

May his memory be a blessing.

Gvanim 6 Cohort in San Francisco, 2006

Read more about Uri Orbach.

Categories: Israel, Grantees, In Memoriam


March 17, 2015