Date of Birth: July 16, 1946
Date of Death --
Place of Birth: Sante Fe, New Mexico
Lifelong community leader recognized for contributions to social justice and activism
The list of Jeannie Weiner’s accomplishments in her decades of service to the community is long and varied. She’s an activist, a champion for peace and multi-cultural community relations. She is an outspoken advocate for Israel, and a historian. She’s also a mother, mentor and friend to many. On June 20, 2017, Jeannie Weiner was honored as The Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC’s 2017 Activist of the Year by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.
Born in New Mexico, Jeannie Mann moved to Detroit in 1971, where she would meet and marry Dr. Gershon R. Weiner, her husband of 37 years until his death in 2013.
The plight of Jews in the Soviet Union in the 1960s and 1970s (http://jewishvirtuallibrary.org/soviet-jewry-movement) initiated Jeannie’s grass roots involvement from 1975 to 1981. In 1981, she became involved with the Jewish Community Council (now the Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC). She quickly became a leading voice of the Soviet Jewry movement, and served on the board of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry from 1984 to 1989. In 1987, as co-chair of the Detroit Summit Mobilization to Washington DC, more than 1,000 Detroiters came to the Capitol to stand up for religious freedom for Soviet Jews. Following the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1991, Jeannie focused her efforts on resettling Russian Jews, serving as a board member with a resettlement group that eventually merged with the Jewish Family Service board.
Also in 1981, she co-founded American Arab and Jewish Friends, a group that met frequently with a mission to reduce tensions and build relationships for more than twenty years. She was a founding member of the City of Farmington Hills Task Force on Ethnic Relations and later chaired the Social Action Committee of the Chaldean Jewish Initiative.
Jeannie’s advice to others who seek involvement is simple and practical. “For me, activism is action. It starts with learning about something you are interested or passionate about. There are lots of ways to become active, you don’t have to be loud about it,” she says. “Join a group of people who have the same interests -- Then you have an instant circle of friends who think the way you do, with whom you can write letters, or march, or just talk about what we can do. Community work gives you a home base for making new friends, and can be a rich and rewarding life.”
Jeannie, who has authored numerous articles and essays, as well as the novel, Santa Fe Sister, currently serves as vice president of Jewish Historical Society of Michigan, and is a member of the Advisory Council of the Jewish Federation’s Women’s Philanthropy Department, and a board member of Hillel of Metro Detroit and of the Jewish Women’s Foundation. She is past president of the Michigan Jewish Conference, the League of Jewish Women’s Organizations and the Tzedakah Chapter of B’nai B’rith Women (now Jewish Women International). She has served on the boards of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit and the Anti-Defamation League.
“My mom is special,” writes Jeannie’s son, Joel Jackson. “I have always been profoundly impressed that she is forever active in the community without sacrificing an ounce of energy for her family, whom she always prioritizes. In fact, when possible, we were included. These experiences opened my eyes to a number of worldwide human rights crises. By uniting with many benevolent organizations and individuals, my mother was able to do big things, move people and make a real difference.”
For more information, see also Vivian Henoch, "Reflections of a Career Volunteer," myjewishdetroit.org (May 2017), accessible here.