This past weekend we were stunned to hear that Danny Mann, our former president and current board member, had passed away. With a sense of deep sadness but appreciation for a life well lived, I wrote the eulogy below that was delivered by our board member Steven Weinberg at the funeral today.
In my comments I focused on Danny’s role in our movement, as I knew other speakers would address his wide Jewish communal involvement as a professional and volunteer. Here, however, I want to share a note I received yesterday from Ameinu board member and publisher of the Forward, Sam Norich, that conveys so much about Danny’s life.
“Danny was the sort of person who was essential to the functioning of a voluntary Jewish polity in America. Whether as a communal professional and mentor to other professionals, or as a volunteer, an activist and a lay leader, he enacted the ethos of mutual responsibility — areyvut — that is the sine qua non of a community like ours. He was born with it, but he nevertheless was instrumental in helping to develop it into its most distinctively American manifestation in the second half of the 20th century, when the mass Jewish mobilization on behalf of Israel marshaled energies and resources that, in the end, benefited American Jewry even more than it did the Jews of Israel or the former Soviet Union.”
In that spirit and in light of his deep commitment to developing the next generation of Labor Zionists, we have established the Elaine and Daniel Mann Young Zionist Leadership Fund. If you are so moved, you can contribute here to ensure that Danny’s life-long commitment will stay with us in a meaningful way.
Kenneth Bob, President Ameinu
Eulogy Delivered at Danny Mann’s Funeral June 3, 2014
Others will no doubt speak about the wide range of Danny’s activities, particularly his deep professional and volunteer involvement in the Washington DC area Jewish community. I want to focus on his life-long commitment to, and leadership of, the Labor Zionist movement in North America. In 1955 Danny was elected the Mazkir or the National Director, of Habonim, the Labor Zionist youth movement, at a critical time for the organization. Four years earlier, Habonim had established the Workshop program, the forerunner of the myriad of Israel gap year programs that now exist.
Danny was very proud that it was during his administration that Workshop graduates became the leadership of the movement across North America. In fact, he wrote in Arise and Build, a book that he helped publish about the first 25 years of Habonim, that this trend would likely extend into the future…and he has been proven correct. Workshop graduates continue to lead the movement to this day, and Danny remained a vocal supporter of the program and delighted in telling others that Habonim invented the Israel gap year program during his time in the movement.
As Habonim neared its 50th anniversary in 1985, Danny felt that more of the story needed to be told, and against some formidable odds, he set up the Habonim Publications and Endowment Fund which ultimately published Builders and Dreamers, which covered a half of a century of Labor Zionist youth activity in North America. In turn, this effort provided the initial funding and donor list for the Habonim Dror Foundation, the alumni association where he served on the board and executive committee. This was classic Danny: chronicling movement history and institution building.
But Danny was only getting started.
Danny took over the presidency of the Labor Zionist Alliance in 1994, representing a pivotal cohort in the Labor Zionist movement: the American-born, English-speaking generation that took the leadership of the movement when the East European-born, Yiddish-speaking generation had passed its most productive years. During his six years as LZA president he worked to raise its profile in the U.S. and develop the relationship with the World Labor Zionist Movement and the Israel Labor Party. In recognition of this effort, he was named an Honorary Fellow of the World Zionist Organization.
When the decision was taken to transition the organization to younger leadership and ultimately change the name to Ameinu, Danny served the role of institutional memory and as a bridge to his generation. He was happy to see a growing Labor Zionist movement while maintaining the link to the past.
Based upon Danny’s belief in Labor Zionism and the importance of youth engagement, it is natural that Ameinu will honor his memory by establishing the Elaine and Daniel Mann Youth Leadership Education Fund to help develop the next generation of movement leadership.
In this way, his life-long commitment will stay with us in a meaningful way.
May his memory be a blessing and an inspiration.