Allan Gale’s career at the Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC has spanned almost 39 years with four different executive directors and three organizational names. But one constant throughout the decades has been his devotion to Detroit’s Jewish community and Israel.
Professional and volunteer leaders of JCRC/AJC commend him for his dedication, knowledge and professionalism, as he has worked to build support for Israel and Detroit’s Jewish community.
“Allan is the consummate professional. He did his job, did it well and made JCRC a better organization because he knew a lot,” says Dr. Richard Krugel, JCRC/AJC immediate past president.
Jeannie Weiner, president of the Jewish Community Council during the 1990s, has known Allan for more than 30 years. “He is a very smart man, diplomatic but not afraid to state a position. He has a knowledgeable, steady way about him, looking for solutions. He gets the community to understand the issues,” she says.
For Gale, 65, involvement in the Jewish community began during his childhood in Minneapolis-St. Paul. He grew up in a Conservative Jewish home and was active in AZA. Gale graduated from the University of Minnesota, where he was president of Hillel, and began Jewish communal work soon after.
“I entered the field through an eight-week internship with ADL. The director thought I would do well in that field, and there were openings in Detroit and Los Angeles,” Gale remembers.
He joined what was then the Jewish Community Council in Detroit in 1978 when Alvin Kushner was the director. “Initially I was assigned to domestic affairs and the urban agenda — how can the Jewish community help improve the economy and education? I was involved in various coalitions and interfaith groups for JCC,” Gale says.
His work during those years spanned the rescue of Ethiopian, Russian and Syrian Jews, as well as the movement for Soviet Jewry, two Israeli wars in Lebanon and the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Itzhak Rabin. In response, Gale helped organize rallies and educational efforts in support of Israel and Jews worldwide.
In 1982, he was named assistant director for Israel advocacy — responsible for building understanding and support for Israel within the Jewish community, local news media, labor and political leaders, and others in Michigan.
In this position, Gale has made 16 trips to Israel, including one in 1990 with Michele Engler (wife of then Gov. John Engler) and other state officials. He has staffed several Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit missions to Israel and served as the local liaison to the Israel Consulate in Chicago. In 1989, Gale was named associate director of the Jewish Community Council.
He has taught and lectured about Israel in local synagogue schools, public schools, before college students at campus Hillels, and with church and civic groups. Gale is pleased with “my small role in working for the rescue of Jews in distress overseas and the defending of Israel in the Detroit area.”
Gale adds, “The JCRC field is all about relationships, opening doors to get messages about Jews, Judaism and what Jews care about — Israel, religious freedom, etc. — to influential government leaders and the general community — a role I took very seriously.”
David Kurzmann, current executive director of JCRC/AJC, adds that Gale “values the input of everyone, and I think people are really drawn to that.”
Colleagues also speak of his disinterest in visibility for himself. “He focused on the work and never put himself first,” says Robert Cohen, former JCRC/AJC executive director.
Micki Grossman, who worked with him when she was a volunteer and staff person at JCRC, says, “He does a lot of things in the community very quietly.” She mentions that he contributed interesting and entertaining items to the Jewish News under a pseudonym for years.
Don Cohen, former Anti-Defamation League Michigan Region director, has known Gale for decades as a colleague and friend. He describes Gale as “the ‘go-to’ guy who knows the history of issues and organizations. He empowers people as a convener, facilitator and supporter.
“He has strengthened our community’s relationship with Israel in so many ways over the years.”
Now that he is retired, Gale plans to focus on family, travel, volunteer work and study. He and his wife, Linda, look forward to more frequent visits to Chicago and New York to see their adult children — son Eric and daughter Alyssa. In addition, Gale plans to hike the Grand Canyon.
He is also studying the Jewish calendar with a local expert. Gale spent almost a year studying Hebrew in Israel and holds a master’s degree in interdisciplinary Jewish studies.
His support for Jewish community activities will continue through volunteer work — most recently at the health fair held in conjunction with the NCJW pop-up Back to School Store for Detroit Public School students.
Community Reception Will Honor Allan Gale
A reception will honor Gale at 7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 10, at Congregation Beth Ahm, 5075 W. Maple in West Bloomfield. Professor Howard Lupovitch, director of the Cohn-Haddow Center for Judaic Studies, Wayne State University, will discuss “Israeli and American Jews: Do We Still Speak the Same Language.” A dessert reception will follow. There is no charge, but guests are asked to respond to allangaleevent.eventbrite.com. Those who want to make tributes in Gale’s honor should visit jcrcajc.org.