Michael Kotzin, longtime Chicago Jewish leader, dies at 74

Michael Kotzin, longtime Chicago Jewish leader, dies at 74

Activist, writer, federation leader hailed for ‘brilliant mind’ and ‘steadfast commitment’ to Jewish community

Michael Kotzin. (JUF/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago)
Michael Kotzin. (JUF/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago)

Michael Kotzin, a longtime leader in Chicago’s Jewish community and an activist on Jewish issues on the broader American stage, has died at 74.

Kotzin, who was a top official at the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, died Sunday after suffering from a serious illness for several years. He served the Chicago federation since 1988, including as executive vice president from 1999 until 2011.

“Our community, the Jewish federation world, indeed the entire Jewish people have benefited in ways almost too numerous to recount from Michael’s deep knowledge, keen insight, steadfast commitment, and brilliant mind,” Bill Silverstein and Steven Nasatir, the chairman and president, respectively, of the Chicago federation, said in a statement. “He was indefatigable, investing unparalleled passion, energy and focus in every facet of his work. His uncompromising fairness and decency were hallmarks of his character.”

Kotzin also formerly served as director of JUF’s Jewish Community Relations Council and, before joining the federation, was Chicago regional director of the Anti-Defamation League. Prior to coming to the ADL, he was a faculty member in the English department at Tel Aviv University.

He was the author of the 2014 book “On the Front Lines in a Changing Jewish World,” a compilation of essays, opinion pieces, speeches and reviews he wrote during the past 25 years. Kotzin was also the author of a book about the novels of Charles Dickens, and has written for The Times of Israel.

“He was an innovative thinker and widely-respected authority on a wide range of issues, including global anti-Semitism, the threat of a nuclear Iran, Israel-Diaspora relations, and intergroup relations,” Silverstein and Nasatir said.

Kotzin is survived by his wife Judy, their three children and their grandchildren.

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