“JUST over a year ago Jeremy stood here and asked that you not forget him – and you have not.” Those heartfelt words were spoken by Jason Spinak at Tuesday night’s NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (JBOD) plenum, which was dedicated to the memory of his younger brother, former JBOD president Jeremy Spinak.
A year on from Jeremy’s passing due to a rare form of cancer, his legacy is very much alive. Tuesday night saw the announcement of a new Garvan-Weizmann fellowship in Jeremy’s name, two graduates of the Jeremy Spinak Young Leaders Program speak of their inspiring journeys and the inaugural JBOD President’s Award bestowed upon a communal stalwart.
“Jeremy was dedicated to his work at the board, he was very proud of his Jewish identity and it really mattered to him to build a socially harmonious community through his work at the board embracing his Jewish values,” Jason said.
“The inaugural President’s Award in Jeremy’s name, the Jeremy Spinak leadership program and so importantly the announcement of the Spinak fellow at the Garvan-Weizmann Institute – what you have put together for Jeremy’s memory is an infrastructure of remembering, of honouring, and of learning.”
The Garvan-Weizmann Spinak fellowship, funded by Jillian Segal and John Roth, will focus on the genetics of Crohn’s Disease – which Jeremy also suffered from – and look at the relationships between autoimmune diseases and cancer.
In announcing it, Garvan Institute executive director Prof Chris Goodnow – who reminisced about his own positive dealings with Jeremy – said, “It is all about people that make things happen.
“Jeremy is clearly one of those extraordinary people that made a great deal happen, and tonight, he’s making even more happen.”
JBOD President’s Award winner Josie Lacey earned the honour for her decades of work with interfaith communities, WIZO, JBOD, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry and other state, national and international forums.
Accepting the award, she recalled Jeremy visiting her home when he became JBOD president, saying “it was very special” to share her knowledge with him.
She also noted that her daughter, integrated oncologist Dr Judith Lacey, cared for Jeremy as his sickness took hold.
JBOD president Lesli Berger recalled texting Jeremy in the last days of his life for advice on a communal issue.
“He was so dedicated … that even on his deathbed he took the time to make sure that he responded. What a mensch, what an enormous loss,” he said. “Jeremy’s left a real void at the Board of Deputies; however, the executive continues to work in his spirit of collegiality and creative problem solving.”