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Kenneth Bialkin, Lawyer and Jewish Leader, Dies at 89

Kenneth Jules Bialkin was born on Sept. 9, 1929, in the Bronx to Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. His father, Samuel, worked in the family’s underwear factory. His mother, Lillian (Kastner) Bialkin, was a homemaker.

His route to a diploma and degree was circuitous. He was admitted to the exclusive Bronx High School of Science, but transferred to Christopher Columbus High School after one week because, by his account, the bus ride was too long. He earned a bachelor of science degree in economics from the University of Michigan and a law degree from Harvard.

He tried to enlist in the military but was rejected because he was colorblind.

In 1956 he married Ann Elizabeth Eskind, a social worker, who survives him. In addition to her and his daughter Lisa, he is survived by another daughter, Johanna Bialkin; and two grandsons.

It was after the couple’s first visit to Israel in 1959 that Mr. Bialkin became a champion of the Jewish state and an informal adviser to its leaders and its supporters in the United States.

He was president of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York from 1989 to 1992, chairman of the American Jewish Historical Society from 1998 to 2003, and chairman of the America-Israel Friendship League from 1996 until earlier this year. He was also secretary of the board of trustees of Carnegie Hall, vice chairman of the Jerusalem Foundation and a politically active board member of the Republican Jewish Coalition.

“Ken was universally respected, even by those with whom he disagreed, because of his integrity, intelligence and deep convictions,” Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which Mr. Bialkin headed from 1984 to 1986, said by email. “Despite his calm visage he spoke truth to power, not yielding to ever-shifting political correctness.”

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