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Murray Shiff died in Seattle on November 19, 2006. He was 84.
Murray was born in Sandomierz, Poland on April 2, 1922. He emigrated to Toronto, Ont. with his family in 1931, and earned a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago in 1949 and a Master’s of Social Work from the University of Toronto in 1951.
Murray dedicated his entire professional life to the Jewish community. One of his first jobs, with the Canadian Jewish Congress, involved traveling to support isolated Jewish communities throughout Ontario. Subsequently, he worked for the Jewish Theological Seminary and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. He was instrumental in establishing Camp Ramah in Canada and served as its first administrator.
Murray was associate director of the Jewish Welfare Federations in Dallas (1966-68) and San Francisco (1970-72). In New York he directed the United Synagogue Book Service (1962-66) and the Large City Budgeting Council of the Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds (1968-70).
In 1972, Murray moved to Seattle to head the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle. Among his many accomplishments in Seattle, he was most proud of his role in the development of the Jewish Studies Program at the University of Washington and the creation of the Federation’s Endowment Fund.
Richard Fruchter, the current CEO of the Jewish Federation, was hired by Murray in 1982 for his first job with the organization. A week before Fruchter started, Murray asked Fruchter to join a small delegation to Israel and Lebanon at the height of Operation Galilee. The group was packed into an armored bus and driven up the coast, where they saw munitions caches hidden in caves by the PLO and the smoke rising from Beirut as well as the Western Wall in Jerusalem. That trip set the tone for Fruchter’s tenure, and showed Murray’s dedication to the Jewish community and for Israel.
“He was an intellectual and he had a good heart,” said Fruchter. “He had a good vision of what this Jewish community could become.”
Rabbi Anson Laytner, executive director of the Pacific Northwest chapter of the American Jewish Committee, was also hired by Murray in 1982.
“For me, he was the consummate Jewish professional: organized, committed, scholarly,” Laytner wrote in an e-mail. “I don’t think any of us realize the extent to which he helped to transform our community because of the quiet, modest way he went about assembling the essential building blocks for a healthy Jewish community. We owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude.”
In retirement, Murray discovered a new interest in harpsichord making. He built four instruments, two of which are frequently used on Seattle’s concert stages.
He served on the board of the Seattle Early Music Guild in its early years, where his nonprofit experience was invaluable to the fledgling organization.
Murray is survived by Naomi, his wife of 56 years; brother J. Richard Shiff of Toronto; children Aviva (Karl) Boedecker of Tiburon, Calif., and Jonathan Shiff of Charlottesville, Va.; and granddaughters Karen and Robin Boedecker.
Memorials may be sent to the Jewish Studies Program of the University of Washington, Development Office, 1200 5th Ave., Ste 500, Seattle, WA 98101-1116 or the Seattle Early Music Guild, 2366 Eastlake Ave. E., Suite #335, Seattle, WA 98102-3399, or a charity of your choice.
Sheldon E. Garber
Sheldon Garber of Kirkland died on October 28, 2006 in a motorcycle accident. He was born in Dayton, Ohio on July 20, 1953 and most recently served as a machinist for the U.S. Post office.
Sheldon is survived by his mother, Selma; siblings Linda (Richie) and Martin, both of Eugene, Ore, Jonathon (Dianne) of Woodinville, and Nancy (Robin) of Kingston.
Donations can be made to Jewish Family Service of Seattle or the charity of your choice.
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