Queens Gazette: QCH honors Jacob Lew, Forest Hills Native and 76th Secretary of the Treasury

September 24, 2018

Jacob “Jack” Lew grew up in a brick apartment building on Yellowstone Boulevard in the Queens neighborhood of Forest Hills. His father arrived in New York in 1916 from Poland, learned English in the public school system and went on to practice law. His mother, who worked from age 15 to support her family, kept the books in her husband’s law office.

According to his sister Rebecca, “At an early age, Jack already had his own ideas of equality, fairness and decency.” In 1971, as a 16-year-old, he helped organize The New York March Against Hunger and was interviewed by a CBS reporter, his first of many television appearances.

The Lews attended The Forest Hills Jewish Center, one of the primary Conservative synagogues in Queens at the time. The center was led by Rabbi Ben Zion Bokser, whose impassioned sermons on Judaism, social responsibility, and inclusion inspired Lew to get involved in his community. In a commencement speech at The Jewish Theological Seminary Commencement Ceremony in 2016, Lew fondly remembered his mentor: “Through his gentle but strong voice and through his actions he… demonstrated that the issues of the day demanded our attention and participation. It was not enough to talk about civil rights, you had to stand together with leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, and take a stand on local issues, even when unpopular.”

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