The longtime communal leader served many years as national executive director of Brith Sholom and executive director of the Zionist Organization of America’s Greater Philadelphia District.
Albert Liss, a longtime communal leader who served for many years as national executive director of Brith Sholom and executive director of the Zionist Organization of America’s Greater Philadelphia District, died May 29 at the age of 91.
His work on behalf of ZOA predated the establishment of Israel; he served as regional head of the American League for a Free Palestine, which, during the ’40s, supported the freedom fighters serving under Menachem Begin in the British stronghold of Palestine.
Many of his activities on behalf of the national organization were educational in nature; he was an advocate and speaker on behalf of the pro-Zionist play, A Flag is Born, starring Marlon Brando and Luther Adler.
When the Jewish state was established, and the American League dissolved, Liss went to New York for a job with the then-nascent Israel Bonds.
For decades, Liss was often the familiar face at the forefront of local rallies and demonstrations held on behalf of Israel.
“The Jewish people have experienced joys and tragedies, and it is that long history of religion and traditions that have bound me to serve,” he told the Jewish Exponent in 1997, a year that marked the beginning of his sixth decade of Zionist activism.
The lifelong Philadelphian talked of the early influence in his life of attending Congregation Ohel Jacob, in North Philadelphia, where “I gained a sense of security that I was part of the history of the Jewish people, who had a profound impact upon civilization.”
He expressed those feelings while sitting shiva for his father, whose death he said was a signal event in his life; the synagogue’s sense of family also afforded him a shield against the shattering impact that reading Hitler’s Mein Kampf had on him at the time, he would say later.
His own impact was direct and meaningful. One of the important byproducts of his national service with the fraternal organization of Brith Sholom was the establishment of Brith Sholom House , a seniors facility in Wynnfield Heights, and Beit Halochem, a rehab facility for wounded Israeli veterans, in Haifa.
His awards and honors were many, including being named Man of the Year by the Philadelphia County Council of the Jewish War Veterans, and being saluted by Brith Sholom with a testimonial dinner.
Liss also was a frequent guest columnist for the Jewish Exponent.
He was “a giant of a man,” recalls Steve Feldman, executive director of ZOA’s local office. “There was no Jewish leader — especially a pro-Israel leader — in our area of his generation who had the passion and drive to help birth the Jewish state and see that it be safe and strong.”
He is survived by his wife, the former Janice Wolfe; a daughter, Judy Schwartz; a son, Jonathan; two stepsons, Lawrence Wolfe and Perry Wolfe; nine grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.