Jack Schrier, a former Morris Country freeholder and a long-term activist in the Greater MetroWest Jewish community, died April 2 at Morristown Medical Center.
He was buried a day later at Hilltop Cemetery in his hometown of Mendham, where he served for two terms as its mayor. He was 82.
Schrier, born to Democratic parents on Manhattan’s Lower East Side and raised in Newark, became a Republican who defined himself as “a conservationist as well as a conservative.”
A staunch advocate for the Jewish community in his home county, he served on the board of the Community Relations Committee of what became the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ. He pressed for broadening the reach of the East Orange-based Jewish Vocational Service of MetroWest to parts of Morris County. He was a strong proponent of Jewish life in Morris County, which he felt was underserved by the MetroWest federation, which had originally been formed to raise money and support Jewish agencies in Essex County and its Newark suburbs.
“The JVS is not seen as a presence here yet,” he told NJJN in 2009. “Even though Morris County is one of the wealthiest in the United States, not everybody in Morris County is wealthy. There are people here in need of help that these services can provide.”
“Jack ensured that the federation was engaged with Morris County influentials. He provided opportunities and looked out for the Jewish community,” said CRC director Melanie Roth Gorelick.
Schrier’s involvement with the Jewish community began in 1997, during a conversation with his friend Roger Jacobs of West Orange, an attorney and former CRC chair.
The two men made an agreement. “I encouraged Roger to become more involved in Morris County, and Roger encouraged me to get more involved in the Jewish community,” Schrier said.
His ardent defense of the environment and his active role in the New Jersey Highlands Water Protection and Planning Council were not popular among many of his fellow Republicans.
“They generally railed against the Highlands from the start,” Schrier said. “They felt it was the taking of property without due process or just compensation and restricting development because of the need to protect water resources.”
He said that was one reason he lost his seat on the Board of Freeholders in 2010. He had been a member since 1999 and was its director in 2004 and 2005.
In 2010, Schrier told NJJN “it is a misperception” that Democrats seem to show more concern than Republicans for minorities and poor people. “Republicans have hearts. ‘Do we not bleed?’” he asked, quoting Shakespeare.
Schrier said he had “deeply ingrained views — to help each other and be kind. It doesn’t mean you can’t be a Republican.”
On a day in July of 2009 he put those words into action. He rose from his seat at a freeholders’ meeting and offered it encouragingly to 24-year-old Khadijah Wallace, a recovering drug user, who told him, “I hope that someday I can sit at this table.”
“Being Jewish means being involved in life,” he said after the meeting. “That young lady was someone who needed help, and Jews have traditionally been brought up to be helpful to those who need it.”
Although he did not belong to a synagogue, Schrier said he had developed a relationship with the Rabbinical College of America, the Chabad-Lubavitch seminary in Morristown.
He called its dean, Rabbi Moshe Herson, “a fascinating man who drew me back in time to the Jewish community of my youth” and his grandparents’ Orthodox home in the Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn.
Schrier is survived by his wife, Elizabeth; his son, Stephen; his daughter, Samantha; and three grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at a later date.