Andrew A. Athens, National Chairman
United Hellenic American Congress (UHAC)
Maynard Wishner, former President of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), attorney, philanthropist and good friend to many, epitomized the meaning of the word “mensch”, a person of integrity and honor. He was an advocate of human rights and religious freedom, not only for his fellow Jews, but for all those who suffered and were persecuted. He was my friend and co-worker in the arena of justice for all for over 40 years.
I was introduced to Maynard Wishner and the late David Roth, also with the AJC and President of the newly established Illinois Ethnic Coalition by the late Dr. Andrew T. Kopan, Professor at De Paul University in 1970. It was a meeting of cultural exchange and the beginning of forging a relationship between the Jewish and Greek communities of Chicago. It was a meeting that spawned a friendship and working relationship not only between two communities, but between two people.
Maynard was an exceptional person. He was intelligent, politically astute and a capable leader of his community. He had an engaging personality and was a good listener. He took the time to know you as a person as well as to understand the concerns of Greek-Americans. When the invasion of Cyprus happened in 1974, Maynard asked me what he and the American Jewish Committee could do to help.
With David Roth and the Illinois Ethnic Coalition we became part of an ethnic network that established partnerships with civic leaders. When Michael Dukakis ran for President in 1984, Maynard Wishner organized the first of many fundraisers with Jewish American leaders. He advocated alongside us on many issues. We also supported the AJC in its efforts to fight prejudice and persecution.
In the 1990s, we organized a delegation of members from UHAC and the AJC to visit Greece and Israel. Maynard was with me when we met former Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis in New York. From this initial meeting with Prime Minister Mitsotakis and the trip to Athens, Thessaloniki, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, came the Greek and Israeli governments’ decision to establish embassies in both countries.
The flourish of activities between our two communities over the years has strengthened our friendship and working relationship. During my tenure as President of the World Council of Hellenes (SAE) and in meeting with Greek-Jewish leaders in Greece, we established a Holocaust Remembrance Day event in Chicago. Maynard Wishner and the AJC were part of this event from the beginning.
Maynard Wishner, my friend and colleague will be missed. I am grateful for the opportunity to have known this remarkable man. He and his contributions to humanity will not be forgotten, but will be an example for future leaders from both of our communities to emulate. On behalf of the members of the United Hellenic American Congress (UHAC), we express our sympathies to his dear wife, Elaine and his family. May his memory be eternal.