Kenneth Bialkin was a prominent corporate attorney and philanthropist whose love for and commitment to Israel and Jewish causes motivated him to lead an extraordinary number of prominent communal organizations. He was a friend and adviser to dignitaries and decision-makers here and around the world.
It was common practice for Bialkin, who died here last week at 89, to convene small groups in the late afternoon in his Skadden, Arps office in Times Square. There, one might find Henry Kissinger, Norman Podhoretz, Mathias Dopfner, head of the Axel Springer media group in Germany, and the late Lord George Weidenfeld of England discussing the latest developments in the Middle East.
A passionate Republican, Bialkin was national chairman of the Anti-Defamation League in the 1980s. He also chaired the America Israel Friendship League and the American Jewish Historical Society, was president of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York and was vice chairman for three decades of the Jerusalem Foundation.
As JTA reported this week, Bialkin played a key role in arranging for the release of Soviet Jews in the mid-1980s when he served as chair of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
Together with his wife, Ann, a social worker, Bialkin, who first visited in Israel in 1959, founded Elem, a group assisting troubled Israeli teenagers.
At his funeral this week, Bialkin was described by former Israeli Ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman as “the best friend Israel could ever wish for.” Such praise would surely have made him proud.