Jacob “Jack” Stein, a longtime leader of the American Jewish community who served as chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations during the Yom Kippur War, and subsequently as the White House Jewish liaison during the Reagan administration, died Dec. 10 after a long illness. A resident of Great Neck, L.I., he was 95.
A confidant of national and international leaders, including several Israeli presidents and prime ministers, Mr. Stein played a major role in convincing the Nixon administration to send immediate military aid to Israel after the country was attacked in 1973, and helped promote improved Jewish-Catholic relations during the papacy of John Paul II. In an act that was unpopular among other American Jews, however, he also, while on the White House staff, advocated the U.S. sale of AWACS surveillance aircrafts to Saudi Arabia.
“Jack was a great leader, devoted to his community, people, and country,” said a statement by Richard Stone and Malcolm Hoenlein, the Presidents Conference current chairman and executive vice chairman, respectively. “He remained deeply involved with the Conference for decades after his tenure as chairman. He served during a time of serious challenges with total dedication and demonstrated unique qualities of leadership throughout.”
Mr. Stein, a graduate of Columbia University, operated a chain of clothing stores in the Northeast before becoming a real estate developer.
A founder of Temple Israel of Great Neck, he served as president of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, and was a member of the U.S. delegation to the United Nations and a delegate to the Human Rights Commission in Geneva.
During the Yom Kippur War he lobbied for the continuation of Soviet Jewish emigration through transit facilities in Austria.
While serving in the Reagan administration, he hosted the White House’s first Chanukah party.
“He was a distinguished leader … a great friend,” Hoenlein said. “He was devoted to family. Every call began with, ‘How’s your wife, how are your kids?’”
Mr. Stein’s wife, Jean, predeceased him. He is survived by three children, six grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.