Tuesday, July 11, 2006

A terrible tragedy

Some sad news, Freedmanslifers. Unfortunately, in the early hours of Sunday morning, Alan Senitt, former UJS Chair, someone many readers will have known very well, was murdered in a violent robbery in Washington DC, whilst trying to protect his companion from an attempt to rape her. It will take some time to reflect on all this, but in the meantime, I would like to share with you the posting I made on his website, alansenitt.com, which you can visit to add your own tributes.

Alan and I had a complex relationship to say the least, but as an individual I had nothing but the utmost respect for him. Even when we had our differences of opinion, he made time to meet up face to face, and talk things through properly. On one occasion he even hand-wrote a long letter to me because he wanted me to know it came straight from the heart, and was outside the machinations of that particular situation.

A few months after our little electoral run-in, he called out of the blue to invite me to the UJS end-of-year handover party, and insisted that I must come and wasn't to feel that it was a token invitation. I took him up on it, and arrived feeling very awkward and embarrassed. He bounded up immediately with that big lopsided grin, pumped my hand vigorously and we talked and laughed for about 20 minutes, while he carted me around like a guest of honour, introducing me to people.

That's the Alan I remember, the one who understood when to park all the politics and reach out to people who were feeling isolated and disconsolate, who brought people in and tried to build bridges, even when he disagreed with them. I regret that we never really worked "together" on anything, and now that it is too late to ask him, I can only hope that he enjoyed the challenges I set for him, as much as I relished the ones he laid before me.

He was a respected adversary, and I will miss him for that as keenly as we will all miss him for his great warmth and considerable charm.

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