The Hebrew phrase for the yahrzeit candle, נר נשמה (ner neshama), means “soul candle.” Last year at this time, the Greater Washington community mourned the loss of one of our beloved leaders, Ronald Glancz. This month, we light the yahrzeit candle and celebrate and honor the soul of a man whose contributions live on in all of us.
Ron was a giant in the region’s Jewish, legal, and civil rights communities. His accomplishments, passion, advocacy, and deep and firm ethical compass were recognized in his lifetime by organizations ranging from the Jewish Foundation for Group Homes (JFGH) and Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington (JCRC) to the NAACP. He believed deeply in justice and lived a life that embodied the ancient Jewish teaching from the Book of Deuteronomy “Tzedek tzedek tirdof,” “justice justice you shall pursue.”
In honor of Ron’s yahrzeit, we, two of Ron’s mentees, are proud to celebrate the creation of the Glancz Legacy Fund at Tzedek DC, an organization inspired by that ancient Jewish teaching from Deuteronomy, and co-founded by Ron to provide free legal and financial empowerment help to vulnerable DC families of all faiths and backgrounds facing debt-related crises. In doing so, Tzedek DC helps build bridges from the Jewish community to the broader community.
Ron’s soul was wise and gentle and generous and humble.
One of us, Allyson, was a mentee and ultimately business partner of Ron’s at the law firm Venable LLP, where Ron literally opened his “rolodex”, and worked closely with her to provide meaningful client-facing opportunities. Allyson recalls Ron’s energy, integrity, generosity of spirit, and humility. Allyson notes that Ron was “who we all want to be when we grow up,” and was inspired by Ron to get further involved at Tzedek DC, which was mentored by Ron through a Fellowship awarded by the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington in late 2015.
It was through that Federation Fellowship that Ariel first met Ron, who as a Federation Board member was designated to help mentor Tzedek DC. Ariel remembers Ron’s deeply rooted commitments to the Jewish community, bridge-building, social justice, the rule of law, and the principle of inclusion. Ron shepherded the development of Tzedek DC from inception, co-founded its Board, and ultimately helped launch it into a thriving non-profit organization that, relying on Jewish values and community resources, has served over 800 families with low incomes in direct legal services work and brought systemic relief to many more, including the restoration of over 65,000 people’s drivers licenses whose license had been previously suspended for unpaid debts.
Two areas of Tzedek DC’s work were identified by Ron and his wife of 48 years, Margie Glancz, for particular focus: first, catalyzing the tikkun olam work of the next generation; and second, supporting the rights of the members of the disabilities community, where Ron and Margie’s personal experiences in advocating for their son Justin, a long-time resident at the Jewish Foundation for Group Homes, informed their passion for fighting against obstacles to full participation by those with disabilities. In this spirit, we today celebrate the creation of a specially dedicated Glancz Legacy Fund at Tzedek DC, named in Ron’s honor to support two corresponding areas of work.
First, the Ronald R. Glancz Avodah Jewish Service Corps Fellowship program each year brings a tikkun-olam-minded recent college graduate to do social justice work at Tzedek DC, while building intentional Jewish community and participating in weekly Jewish social justice learning.
Second, the Glancz Legacy Fund supports the disabilities community service project at Tzedek DC, where 21% of the clients have a physical or cognitive disability, therefore experiencing obstacles to the legal or financial system. This program allows tailored and dedicated service by a specially trained lawyer and advocacy team in support of the disabilities client community.
The Glancz Legacy Fund is thus far co-launched by a leadership group in formation that we are proud to be a part of, and already includes such longtime community stalwarts as Margie Glancz; Vivian Bass, CEO Emeritus of The Jewish Foundation for Group Homes (JFGH), Executive Committee, Respectability, and Tzedek DC Advisory Council member; Ron Halber, who as Executive Director of the JCRC and in partnership with Ron Glancz, has championed JCRC’s strategic partnership with Tzedek DC; Mark Kahan, JCRC Board member, Tzedek DC Advisory Council member, and former Federation Board member; and David Farber, Member of the Federation and American Jewish Committee boards, Board Chair of the Hebrew Free Loan Association of Greater Washington, and Member of the Tzedek DC Advisory Council.
It is our hope that the work of Tzedek DC continues to embody Ron’s fervent optimism about the Jewish community and about our country, and that his soul is heartened by and smiling down upon these efforts to do tzedek here in our Greater Washington community.
Further information on the Glancz Legacy Fund is available by emailing [email protected]
Allyson Baker is a Partner at Venable LLP, member of the Tzedek DC Advisory Council, and member of Adas Israel. Ariel Levinson-Waldman is the Founding Director of Tzedek DC, a member of Temple Sinai, and speaker at the 2019 6th and I Historic Synagogue Yom Kippur Services.