There was just one synagogue in Saginaw, Mich., where Ronald Glancz grew up in the 1940s and ’50s. And he talked about it all his life.
“He always told me how, as a young boy, one of the biggest points of pride was that he had a key to the synagogue, and what an honor it was for him,” said Ron Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, who had known Glancz for 15 years. It was a passion for the Jewish community that would last a lifetime, according to friends and associates.
A fixture of the greater Washington Jewish community, Glancz died Aug. 14 from cancer. He was 75.
An attorney, Glancz was an expert on financial regulation, working for the U.S. government and in the private sector until he retired in 2016. But in the Jewish community here and nationwide, he was known for his commitment to Israel and support of Jewish causes and people with disabilities.
A past president of the Jewish Foundation for Group Homes and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, Glancz most recently sat on the board of RespectAbility, a nonprofit that advocates for disability rights. In the past, he’d served on boards for the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and University of Michigan Hillel. He was also a founding member of TzedekDC, a nonprofit that provides legal services to low-income Washingtonians.
“For Ron, being active in the Jewish community was not some sort of corporate mission statement,” Halber said. “It was something that coursed through his veins.”
A loyal Wolverine, Glancz completed his undergraduate degree at University of Michigan before earning his J.D. from its law school in 1968. He married his wife, Margie, soon after.
The same year, they moved to Washington, where Glancz went into civil service, working at the Department of Justice, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation before taking a partnership at Venable LLP, where he stayed for 25 years.
Vivian Bass met the Glanczes 40 years ago when both of their sons attended summer camp at the then-Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington. Bass, now CEO emerita of the Jewish Foundation for Group Homes, saw Ronald and Margie’s son, Justin, sporting a Michigan T-shirt and, as an alumna herself, sought out his parents.
According to Bass, that began a close friendship and working relationship. Justin Glancz has an intellectual disability and has lived in a Jewish Foundation for Group Homes home for more than 20 years, which led his father to take up the cause in his philanthropic work. Glancz’s daughter, Rachel, lives in California with her husband and three sons.
Glancz joined the Jewish Foundation for Group Homes board and went on to serve as president while Bass was CEO. The two later served together on the board of RespectAbility.
In a 2008 article on the JCRC website, Glancz talked about the experience of parenting a child with disabilities.
“It’s funny how a situation like that, which is challenging for a child with special needs, can also be rewarding in terms of meeting people, getting more active in the Jewish community and doing worthwhile things in your life,” he said. “Justin’s been an inspiration.”
In her eulogy for Glancz, delivered at his funeral Aug. 16 at Congregation Har Shalom in Potomac, where Glancz was a member for 34 years, Bass reflected on how he went out of the way to get to know the staff at the group homes and learn about their backgrounds.
“It resonated preciously to me how deeply compassionate and genuinely caring he was regarding the entire staff, particularly the diverse direct care staff and their families,” she said. “He studied about their countries of origin — in Africa and the islands and more — so he could converse with greater familiarity and depth about their experiences before coming to the U.S.”
In his professional life and charitable pursuits, Glancz developed a reputation for being a mentor.
Maryland state Del. Ariana Kelly (D-District 16) remembers meeting him soon after her election, and said they quickly developed a friendship.
“Whenever I’d see him or if I needed to call him for advice, he was always open. He always took time,” Kelly said. “And he would often tell me to keep being persistent, particularly working on issues that really mattered but weren’t as high profile. He was really strategic in a thoughtful way, always guided by his morals.”
Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, the CEO of RespectAbility, said Glancz was not only a great help to her personally, but also in the way he and Margie served as models for her and her husband. The Mizrahis have a child with multiple disabilities.
“As I am dyslexic, math is not my forte,” Mizrahi said. “Hence, having one of the leading experts in banking and finance as our treasurer was like a godsend. … Because of the work Ron and others have done with the Foundation for Jewish Group Homes, a caring parent of an adult child with disabilities can know that things will be OK for their child. In creating a better world for his son, Ron helped create a better future for all adults with disabilities.”
People who knew him also described Glancz as fiercely supportive of Israel. Halber said that much of Glancz’s work at the Federation and the JCRC was dedicated to strengthening ties between the Washington-area Jewish community and the Jewish state.
Halber remembered a time when Glancz was serving as JCRC president and was tasked with introducing the Israeli ambassador at an event.
After everything had wrapped up, Halber found Glancz near the front of the room, staring at the podium, behind which the Israeli flag and the American flag stood side by side.
“I watched him for about 20 seconds,” Halber said. “I put my arm around his shoulder and I said, ‘What’s the matter?’ He said, ‘I was just thinking how proud my parents would be of me introducing the Israeli ambassador. How they wouldn’t believe it.’”
Glancz is survived by his wife, Margie, son, Justin, and daughter, Rachel Shader, as well as son-in-law Josh Shader and three grandchildren: Alex, Max and Drew Shader.