The OU’s own “Liberal Lion,” Dr. David Luchins, national vice president of the Orthodox Union, honored by JCPA
For Dr. David Luchins, the Torah’s commitment to making the world a better place is clear.
“Judaism is all about helping the poor, the weak and the widows,” Luchins explained. “My rebbe, Rabbi Aharon Soloveichik taught us that ‘A perfect G-d dared to create an imperfect world and deigned to create an imperfect creature, Jew and non-Jew, and gave all of us the daunting task of perfecting His imperfect world.’”
In light of his commitment to social justice, Dr. David Luchins, national vice president of the Orthodox Union, will receive the coveted Albert D. Chernin Award from the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) at its annual meeting, the 2015 Jewish Community Town Hall in Washington, D.C. on October 11, 2015. The Chernin Award is given to Jewish leaders whose lifework best exemplifies the social justice imperatives of Judaism, Jewish history and the protection of The Bill of Rights.
“For over fifty years, David Luchins has been a champion and steadfast defender of Torah-imbued social justice for all peoples, ever since his high school service as the National Conference of Synagogue Youth’s National Social Actions Chair,” said Ethan Felson, JCPA Senior Vice President and Acting CEO. “Through his work in the JCPA, OU, NCSY and other Jewish and civic organizations, Dr. Luchins is an embodiment to the values of tikkun olam—repairing the world.”
With the acceptance of the award, Dr. Luchins joins a select and prestigious group of Jewish leaders that include Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Senators Ron Wyden, Carl Levin and Frank Lautenberg, as well as Abe Foxman, Rabbi David Saperstein and Professors Alan Dershowitz and Laurence Tribe.
“For decades, David Luchins has deftly, quietly and diplomatically represented the Orthodox Union in articulating and advocating for our community’s interests in multiple forums and policy related disputes,” stated Allen Fagin, executive vice president of the Orthodox Union. “His efforts, often behind the scenes and unheralded, have often resulted in the protection of Torah-true values in the face of often intense opposition. His receipt of the Albert D. Chernin Award from the JCPA is a testament to David’s life-long dedication to the advancement of Klal Yisroel. We take enormous pride in this singular honor.”
“David Luchins has been a dedicated and passionate advocate for Jewish engagement with public policy for decades,” said OU Advocacy Director Nathan Diament. “He well deserves JCPA’s highest honor.”
It is quite an honor for the modest, soft-spoken, New York-born Luchins whose mother, Dr. Edith Hirsch Luchins, was one of the first women to serve on the national board of the Orthodox Union. When asked about the relationship between social justice and Torah-true Judaism, Dr. Luchins explained that the two go naturally hand-in-hand.
“Rav Israel Salanter said that a truly religious person worries about their own spiritual being and the physical wellbeing of other people,” said Dr. Luchins. “That was the message we received from Rav Aharon Soloveichik and Rav Joseph Dov Soloveitchik. We can ask more for ourselves, but we must always ask first for everyone else.”
Dr. Luchins attended Yeshiva University and studied under both Rabbi Aharon Soloveichik and his brother Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik. His commitment to social activism was cemented in NCSY, the Orthodox Union’s international teen movement. He married Vivian Osdoby in 1969, whom he met while both were teenagers in NCSY.
After earning his Ph.D. at the City University of New York, Luchins became chairman of the political science department at Touro College in 1978, where he still teaches courses in American politics and international relations. He is also the Founding Dean of Touro’s Lander College for Women. “Dr. Luchins is a professor who teaches by example. He has had a transformational impact on generations of our students at the Lander College for Women,” noted Dean Marian Stoltz-Loike of the Lander College for Women/The Anna Ruth and Mark Hasten School. Dr. Stoltz-Loike is also a national vice president of the Orthodox Union.
Dr. David Luchins also served for 20 years as a staff member to United States Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, ultimately serving as his Senior Advisor.
Dr. Luchin’s life has been one long quest to better the world, a quest he shared with his colleagues and students and those he mentored inside Touro and throughout the myriad of Orthodox Union programming in which he is involved. He is a frequent speaker at OU synagogues and accompanies his wife, Vivian, the lay Chair of NCSY Summer Programs, to NCSY programs throughout North America and Israel. The two are also co-chairs of NCSY’s Ben Zakkai dinner, hosted by NCSY’s prestigious honor society. In 2011 NCSY honored Vivian and David for their 50 years of service to the organization.
“Dr. Luchins has been at the forefront of NCSY’s efforts on behalf of the community through social and political activism for over a half century,” stated Rabbi Micah Greenland, international director of NCSY. “The impact has been extraordinary, both because of the projects in the Jewish community directly, but even more so because of the leadership development he has given to our teens.”
Rabbi Greenland added that most of the social action missions that NCSY chapters across the world undertake are motivated by Dr. Luchins’ work and example—from rebuilding storm-torn areas of New Orleans, to attending AIPAC summits, to handing out sandwiches to the homeless in Los Angeles.
His work has also inspired the next generation of political activists inside the Orthodox Union.
“My responsibility began when I was eight days old,” Dr. Luchins said. “That is the our purpose on the planet. We’re supposed to be givers, not takers.”
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.