Posthumously Inducted into NCSY Ben Zakkai Honor Society
When Anne Samson was killed in an automobile accident in Los Angeles during the summer of 2013, the Jewish world lost a very special individual. Anne was a dedicated wife, mother and grandmother who was always willing to give of her time, her warmth and her spirit to people she barely knew. Lee Samson, Anne’s husband, was the first full-time regional director of NCSY in Los Angeles.
Anne Samson was posthumously inducted into the Ben Zakkai Honor Society – the NCSY Hall of Fame – in New York on January 26. On February 9, the OU Israel Center also held a dinner in her memory. An estimated 250 guests attended the Jerusalem dinner which was held at the Ramada Hotel.
Proceeds from the dinners in Jerusalem and New York will help establish the Anne Samson Memorial Fund which will provide assistance for teens to participate in programs such as The Jerusalem Journey (TJJ), one of the most popular NCSY Summer in Israel Programs. Every year TJJ gives hundreds of public high school students their first Israel experience. The Anne Samson Memorial Fund will also provide scholarships for participants in OU Israel projects.
Impact on Hundreds of Teens
“It is fitting that so many people attended the tribute to Anne in Jerusalem,” says Harvey Tannenbaum who chaired the dinner along with his wife, Cheri. Tannenbaum explained that three generations of the Samson family live in Israel. “Anne and Lee Samson had an impact on hundreds of teens who have become adult leaders throughout the US and Israel,” he said.
The Tannenbaums themselves are a case in point. They met Anne Samson when they were teens at Beth Jacob Congregation in Los Angeles – and they remained friends for more than 45 years. “She was always very involved with kids in youth groups and eventually with NCSY,” Harvey Tannenbaum says. “Anne was always ready to help people by giving advice. And she was an integral part of the team when Lee was youth director and then created the West Coast region of NCSY,” which included teens from the entire west coast of North America – from Vancouver, British Columbia to San Diego, California.
“Without Anne’s personal investment in NCSY, the lives of thousands of young American Jews would have been immeasurably poorer of Jewish values,” says Rabbi Avi Berman, Executive Director of OU Israel.
“Together Anne and Lee Samson set new precedents in Jewish outreach and blazed a trail for all of us to follow. Through their example, I was fortunate enough to learn from them how to take responsibility, how to effect change, and how to energize a community,” he said.
Some of the testimonials at the dinner in Jerusalem emphasized the scope of people Anne Samson influenced:
Nir Barkat, Mayor of Yerushalayim:
“Anne Samson was a role model and inspiration to the Jewish people. Her love and dedication to Jewish causes and the State of Israel were remarkable. The breadth of Lee and Anne’s philanthropic activities spanned across oceans; the Samsons’ love for Jewish causes and Israel were felt from Los Angeles to Jerusalem. Together they touched and empowered so many lives. I can see no better way to memorialize her legacy than by establishing the Anne Samson Memorial Scholarship Fund.”
Eric Garcetti, Mayor of Los Angeles:
“. . . Although Anne is no longer with us, her dreams will endure through the youth who participate in the National Conference of Synagogue Youth’s programs and through the preservation of Jewish traditions.”
Yitzchak Fund, President of OU Israel:
“For many years Anne Samson was the unofficial mother to hundreds of NCSYers who visited their home in Los Angeles, as her husband, Lee, built up the West Coast region of NCSY, the OU’s premier Jewish youth organization. In her modest way Anne changed the lives of many young people who, years later, have recalled how her listening ear and pearls of wisdom left their indelible mark on their lives.
“Anne’s legacy of selflessness was no doubt a natural extension of the charitable tradition endowed by her father-in-law Julie Samson, one of the founding members of the OU Israel Center in Jerusalem. It gives me great satisfaction that the Israeli branch of the OU is partner in holding this dinner in Anne’s memory.”
Harvey and Cheri Tannenbaum, Tribute Dinner Chairs:
“We miss Anne who was a big sister and a building light to us teenagers in NCSY. We respect, admire and learned so much from Lee and Anne. It is truly immeasurable how you affected our life in LA and in Israel.”
Rabbi Avi Berman, Executive Director, OU Israel:
“On behalf of OU in Israel, I extend to Lee and to the entire Samson family a bracha: May you find the strength to carry on with the work that was such an important part of Anne’s life. May the newly-established Anne Samson Memorial Scholarship Fund continue to touch the lives of Jewish teens, and may her memory be a comfort and a blessing to us all.”