Bob Sachs will chair JCRC
by Shiela Steinman Wallace, Editor
“Robert H. Sachs has been named chair of the Jewish Community Relations Council,” said JCRC Director Matt Goldberg. “He is an innovative leader and I look forward to working with him. His strong background in social action and Israel advocacy provides a good understanding of many of the issues JCRC deals with on a regular basis. I confidently anticipate a continuation of the excellent work Ayala Golding has done in this position, and I expect the JCRC to reach new levels of engagement and advocacy in the near future.”
For Sachs, the JCRC is a natural fit. “I’ve always been involved with social action, from my days in law school in Chicago,” he said. Whether it is fighting for tenants’ rights, working with the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky or providing free legal assistance to those who cannot afford it through the Legal Aid Society, Sachs has always put tikkun olam – the repair of the world – high on his personal agenda.
“I think Jews have a special role in social action,” Sachs stated. “I’m interested in all the issues JCRC is involved with, from making sure that the church remains separate from the state, especially in the public schools, to fighting for gender equality to supporting the State of Israel.”
“I was a liberal when was I young,” he stated, “and I’m still a liberal now that I’m old. I haven’t gotten any more conservative over the years.”
“I think our relationships with other faith communities are important, too,” he continued, “in allowing others to develop a greater understanding of Jews and the Jewish religion.”
Sachs has some goals in mind for the JCRC. “I want to push a strategic plan,” he said. “We’ve begun to talk about that and will be doing one in near future so that we understand where we are, where we want to go and how we evaluate ourselves in getting to our goals. I understand JCRC must be reactive in many ways to things that happen in public school, things that politicians do in Frankfort and Washington,” he said, “but we still need to plan our overall direction.
“Aya Golding has done a wonderful job in moving us in that direction,” Sachs said of the outgoing JCRC chair, “and I’m just going to build on what she’s already done.”
The JCRC is one of the largest committees at the Jewish Community of Louisville. Its members come from all parts of the community and a variety of political persuasions. Together, they gather information and discuss issues with the goal of reaching consensus and taking action when appropriate.
“I am impressed with the number of young people on the Council,” Sachs said. “It’s very exciting to see them take over. We’re lucky, too, to have someone like Matt staffing JCRC. He’s on top of all issues and knows the right people around the country” so he’s able to research the issues and make connections with other JCRCs.
Louisville has a tradition of leadership in the Jewish community relations field. Both Marie Abrams and Lewis Cole, z”l, led the national Jewish Council for Public Affairs or its predecessor. “It’s comforting to know that a small community like Louisville has one of the national stars in community relations in Marie Abrams,” Sachs said. “She is somewhat of a legend in community relations. I always check with Marie because of her intelligence, background and experience – it’s invaluable.”
Sachs brings impressive credentials to his new post. He has served in leadership positions for many organizations in both the Jewish and general community. “Louisville’s the kind of community that makes it easy to do that,” he said. “Anybody who wants to get involved can. It’s very open, and your service is always appreciated and welcome.”
A native of Chicago, Sachs began his community service while he was a student. He was a founding member of the Northwestern University Law Students for Civil Rights in 1962.
“One of the things we did at Northwestern was to force the integration of the residence hall at the downtown campus,” he explained. Abbott Hall is a very large residence hall that serves Northwestern’s law, medical and business schools.
In Chicago, Sachs also volunteered his services to Legal Aid.
“The first thing I got involved with in Louisville was the Louisville Civil Liberties Union,” he said. Always looking to enhance the organizations he serves, Sachs soon realized that the state organization was located in Louisville and there was no need for a separate chapter here, “so we merged the two and I became president of the merged organization, which is now called the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky.”
He also served on the ACLU national board. He received a Certificate of Appreciation from the ACLU in 1986.
Sachs continued his volunteer activity in the general community, also serving on the board and as president of the Louisville Tenants Association, and on the boards of Leadership Louisville, the Legal Aid Society, the Louisville Free Public Library Association and Sarabande Books, a not-for-profit book publisher.
But if you look at everything Sachs has done, it soon becomes evident that the Jewish community is close to his heart, and he has devoted a tremendous amount of time to both national and local Jewish organizations.
Nationally, Sachs served as a member of United Jewish Communities’ Renaissance and Renewal Pillar (a pillar is a committee that addresses a major focus of national UJC policy and activity), and UJC’s Resolutions Committee. UJC is the predecessor organization of Jewish Federations of North America.
He is currently a member of the board, the Budget & Finance Committee and is past treasurer of Jewish Education Service of North America (JESNA), where he is a long-time volunteer.
Here in Louisville, the Jewish Community Federation has been a major beneficiary of Sachs’ leadership and devotion. He is a past president of the Federation, and chaired its 2002 United Jewish Campaign. He also chaired the Federation’s Endowment Committee and the Federation’s Community Realignment Task Force.
Currently, he is on the board and the Executive Committee of Louisville Central Community Centers, a grassroots organization in the Russell neighborhood, and serves as its treasurer. In addition, he is a member of the board of Louisville Literary Arts and serves on the Steering Committee of the new Kentucky School of Art.
In addition, Sachs is a past president of Congregation Adath Jeshurun, a past president of the Central Agency for Jewish Education in Louisville, and a member of the Jewish Community Center board.
Sachs is a lawyer. He earned his BSC from DePaul University and his JD from Northwestern University. He also attended the Executive Program at Stanford University and is a 1984 graduate of Leadership Louisville.
In 1964, he was admitted to the Bar in Illinois, and in 1972, he was admitted to the Bar in Kentucky and to practice before the United States Supreme Court.
He started his career in private practice in Chicago in 1964, and came to Louisville in 1971 as a staff attorney and ultimately became vice president and general counsel for Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. In 1989, he was appointed vice president and corporate secretary for BATUS, Inc., and from 1993-1998, he served as executive vice president, Law and Trust, for Mid-America Bancorp and Bank of Louisville.
In 2009, Sachs earned his MFA in writing from Spalding. Eleven of his short stories have been published, and he recently came in third in Literary LEO’s fiction contest. He received an honorable mention in the 2009 Glimmer Train contest for new writers and was a semi-finalist in the 19th consecutive New Millennium Writing Competition.
In both 2004 and 2005, he took first place in the Graduate Division of the Metroversity Writing Contest in the fiction category. He also took first place in the 2006 Courier-Journal Photography Contest, Travel Division and second place in the 2007 Literary LEO Traditional Photography Contest.
In 2007, he received the Jewish Community Federation’s Blanche B. Ottenheimer award that is presented annually to a Louisvillian whose lifetime achievements reflect a dedication the pursuit of political reform, civil rights and social justice.
“I come from a tradition of community service and a sense of justice. I know my father of blessed memory was a member of the NAACP in the 1940’s and my mother, who will be 101 next month, still volunteers to help people who are less fortunate than she is, although she has cut back to just one day a week.
He and his wife, Felice Koloms Sachs, have two children, Adam (Evyn Block) and Joshua and two grandchildren, William and Julia.