In early March I received a call from Jack Boeko telling me that he was scheduled to have hip replacement surgery, and we would get together when he came up to New Jersey after his recuperation period. Alas, this was not to be as Jack did not survive the surgery.
He was a personal friend and colleague of mine for over 25 years. We worked very closely on numerous projects, as he was head of JCC MetroWest for more than 20 years, until 1997. Born in Canada, Jack regaled me with stories about Jewish Montreal, which was chronicled in the novels of Mordecai Richler, the Canadian Philip Roth. Jack had an illustrious career in the JCC movement, having headed, besides JCC MetroWest, the 92nd Street Y and the New Orleans JCC. He also mentored many professionals who have gone on to take up leadership posts in JCCs throughout the United States.
But he was most in his element when he performed the functions of impresario. He presided over the spectacular North American JCC Maccabi Games that were based in MetroWest in the summer of 1996. During the opening and closing festivities, he displayed the vigor and vibrancy of a Max Bialystock —but for great success, not a planned flop.
He was a playwright, with short plays and a musical to his credit. He established and founded “Cinema U” in south Florida, which featured films, primarily of Jewish content, and speakers who provided insights into the film’s subject matter. Jack always provided the context. I had the privilege of doing a lecture for one of these films.
Jack took great pride in the fact that he watched Jackie Robinson play ball with the Montreal Royals, the farm team of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Several years later, Robinson famously integrated baseball as a member of the Brooklyn team.
When Jack retired from JCC MetroWest, he worked with me on the fund-raising for the Lester Jewish Community Housing Campaign, which today is a major success story for our community.
Jack was a builder of Jewish community centers, of senior citizen housing, of Jewish cultural arts, of massive sports activities — a true builder of Jewish community.
Jack was the impresario, orchestrating great events, running great agencies, and choreographing a great career. May his memory be for a blessing.