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Ira Changed the Direction of My Life July 19, 2008

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Rulx Jean-Bart
Miami, FL

Dear Ruth [Gollobin-Basta]:

I can definitely say that my encounter with your father changed the direction of my life. I was a young man who had just finished grad school when I met your father in 1976. If I am in Florida today it is partly due to your father. I can still visualize that life-changing day, a late afternoon/early evening meeting with Ira and Father Adrien in a restaurant somewhere in Manhattan (maybe in Times Square). I think Ira was a “usual” there. That evening, they made me a scary offer that I could not refuse. I was asked to go to Miami to help the burgeoning Haitian refugees’ movement. My task, if I should accept, was to assist in organizing the Haitian refugees so they might play a leadership role in their own struggle. I was also asked to help organize support groups for the Haitian refugees and to assist the Haitian Refugee Center in becoming administratively and fiscally more responsible.

I knew nothing of Miami and I had just graduated from school. However, your father’s enthusiasm, passion, and commitment to the success of the cause made my decision easier. Through him I realized that I was becoming part of a movement that would protect, support, and guide me. That is why I left the comfort of my home to go to Miami with only two or three contact names and a lot of apprehension.

Your father, Ira, helped build a great movement that benefited millions of people and at least one country. But less than a thousand of those who benefited knew what he did! Ira and Father Adrien, on behalf of the Haitian refugees, put together a dream team of non-Haitians that had Ira Kurzban, Sue Sullivan, Betty Wigs, Mike Hooper, Rick Swartz, Peter Schey, and many others that helped with the legal and political aspects of the struggle. He did all that without being in the limelight. The interesting thing about your father is the fact that he sought causes, but never the spotlight as so many do. He was the invisible force, the strength behind many struggles. He chose to be in the background, in the shadow of those he supported, side by side, never in front, until the final victory. He was one of the backbones of the movement. Like an earthquake, your father could be felt thousand of miles from his epicenter (his office), although only those next to him could see him. Your father’s ability to build and support causes passionately and diligently without overpowering them made him a great and admired man.

I hope I shed some lights for you on your father’s past.

A brilliant Lawyer… the Wisest of Men July 19, 2008

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Muzaffar Chishti
New York, NY

Ira was special to so many of us in so many ways. To me he was not only a brilliant lawyer, but one of the wisest men I had the honor of knowing. Chats with him were a treat. He was sweet enough to have two long phone chats with me after Ruth’s passing. I knew that I couldn’t force a meeting until he was ready. But I can tell you how fortunate I feel that I had a long dinner meeting with him while Ruth was in the hospital. Yes, indeed, it was the night when I ran into his daughter Ruth and Carol Smith outside Ruth’s room. We went to a Turkish restaurant (where the maitre d’ had been a client of his) and discussed everything from Ruth’s impending departure to the importance of John Adams. Ira never ceased to impress me with his thirst for new intellectual pursuits. Only last year, he asked me to give him a list of books and other readings so that he could begin to have a better sense of India — not its past (which many are preoccupied with), but its place in the future of humanity. With all that he knew, he never stopped learning.