2008-08-13 / Obituaries

June Walker dies; led Hadassah, Presidents Conf.

By BEN HARRIS JTA

JUNE WALKER…was an internationally known Jewish leader. JUNE WALKER…was an internationally known Jewish leader. NEW YORK—June Walker, leader of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, died of cancer at the age of 74. She was a resident of Rockaway, NJ.

"She was such a remarkable fighter," said Walker's rabbi, Amy Joy Small. "She did not let it stop her. She had things to do."

Walker, a former president of Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America, became only the second female to lead the conference last year when she replaced investment banker Harold Tanner as chairperson.

"Leaders of the United States and Israel held her in high regard and respected the person even more than the positions she held," said Malcolm Hoenlein, the Presidents Conference's executive vice chairman, in a statement. "They, as we, recognized immediately her integrity, her intelligence and the sincerity of her advocacy. I am personally, as is the conference collectively, devastated by her passing."

Walker's nomination in April 2007 as chairperson was something of a departure for the Presidents Conference, the main communal umbrella body on foreign policy, which in recent years has been headed by prominent businessmen.

A respiratory therapist, former college professor and health-care administrator, Walker was a longtime community activist whose involvement with Hadassah began as a teenager.

In June, Walker was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Haifa in recognition of her years of work on behalf of Israel, and in particular her devotion to health care in the Jewish state. Walker was one of seven honorees, including a former director of the Mossad intelligence agency and three university professors, but was chosen to deliver remarks on behalf of the group.

Walker rose through a succession of positions at Hadassah before assuming the presidency in 2003, a post she held for four years. Under her leadership, the organization raised $75 million for a $210 million inpatient tower at its hospital at Ein Kerem, Jerusalem, and completed a $48 million emergency medicine facility in Jerusalem.

"It is with a very heavy heart that we begin to mourn June Walker, a unique leader and a wonderful friend to many," said Walker's successor as Hadassah president, Nancy Falchuk.

Walker is the first Presidents Conference chairperson to die in office. The group says it has no succession plan..

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