JCRC Mourns the Passing of Executive Director Emeritus Mort Ryweck, z’’l

Ryweck served as JCRC executive director 1975 – 1991

August 27, 2019

Minneapolis, MN – Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC), issued the following statement mourning the passing of Mort Ryweck (12/10/1929 – 08/25/2019):

“The JCRC notes with profound sadness the passing of Mort Ryweck, z’’l. Mort served as the executive director of our JCRC/ADL from 1975 to 1991. We extend our deepest condolences to his son and daughter-in-law, Daniel & Beverly Ryweck; granddaughters, Rebecca and Rachel; and the rest of Mort’s family along with his dear circle of loving friends. Mort was preceded in death by his beloved wife of 55 years, Rosemarie and three siblings.

“Mort, z’’l, will be forever known for his great determination and success in strengthening interfaith relations and Jewish-African American relations in the Upper Midwest. Mort possessed a vast knowledge of the Jewish world and human relations field. He was an accomplished writer; remarkably well-read; soulful in his studious manner; and infinitely patient and profoundly kind no matter the pressures he faced. He represented the Jewish community with distinction, dignity, and rectitude.

“A salient measure of his work and reputation was the opinion of the Twin Cities’ newspapers—for which he was a frequent contributor of commentary pieces on timely topics. Upon his retirement in July 1991, the Pioneer Press editorialized: ‘You’d be hard-pressed to find a more passionate soldier in the battle against bigotry.’ The editorial noted Mort’s impressive ability to organize coalitions for human and civil rights. Three years after his ‘retirement,’ the Star Tribune highlighted in an editorial in September 1994 Mort’s work with the League of Minnesota Human Rights Commissioners and the sponsorship of regional workshops on hate crimes. This effort resulted in better communications between the police and minority communities according to the Star Tribune.

“Mort’s career spanned 33 years in community relations and the geography of the heart of the United States from Milwaukee, Chicago, St. Louis and finishing in Minnesota and North Dakota and South Dakota (He succeeded our first executive director, Sam Scheiner). During his tenure, watershed events occurred in Israel and the Middle East requiring the invocation of the JCRC mission as an advocate for Israel from an American middle west perspective: the UN declaration as Zionism as a form of racism; Anwar Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem; the Iranian Islamic revolution; the Egyptian-Israel peace treaty; the 1982 Lebanon War; the first Gulf War and Scud attacks on Israel and the Madrid Conference which followed the war. Mort’s leadership was critical.

“Locally, his deft handling of the rise of antisemitism associated with the farm crisis of the 1980s drew national praise. Mort wrote frequently of hate mongers exploiting the dire economic circumstances of struggling farmers to foment unrest sometimes leading to violence. The Fargo Forum in October 1983 carried a story of Mort’s efforts in which he highlighted the danger of groups like the Posse Comitatus and the ‘gun being their law,’ not long after a tax resister murdered two U.S. Marshalls in North Dakota. Mort also helped organize the providing of legal and other services from the Jewish community to assist financially threatened farmers.

“Mort was greatly respected by his peers. Jay Tcath, former JCRC Executive Director and now executive vice president at Jewish United Fund in Chicago, reflected: ‘As a professional, Mort was the ideal predecessor: bequeathing a strong agency, available when needed, and absent enough for those who followed to blaze their own path.  In other words, a mensch.’

“As Gary Reierson—the retired President and CEO of the Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches observed about Mort: ‘Mort’s style was to celebrate what each group brought to the mix. He exhibited love in action, and he exhibited his faith in action, and that is the deepest expression of religiosity.’

“May Mort’s memory be for a Blessing.”

Thursday, August 29, 2019 | 11:00 a.m.
Temple Israel
2323 Fremont Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55405

Thursday, August 29, 2019 | 7:00 p.m.
Temple Israel
2323 Fremont Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55405