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February 2003 Volume 5, Issue 5:
Building Bridges: Boston Dedicates A New Bridge To Leonard P. Zakim
By Mike Katz
03.30.03

This issue of Myeloma Today is sponsored in part by an unrestricted educational grant from Novartis Pharmaceuticals.

Boston's new Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge is dedicated to the memory of a very special human being who lost his personal battle with multiple myeloma on December 2, 1999, at the age of 46. It is a fitting tribute to a man who dedicated his life to building bridges, working tirelessly for civil rights and intercultural harmony. The bridge was dedicated on October, 4, 2002 in a moving ceremony attended by about 2,000 people. The ceremony included a multi-ethnic children's chorus assembled for the event, and reached its apex when rock star Bruce Springsteen, whom Lenny had become friends with towards the end of his life, took to the stage to sing his classic, "Thunder Road."


Twin 16-year-old sisters Deena and Shari with their mother Joyce Zakim listen to
Bruce Springsteen during the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge Dedication

Lenny was co-founder of the Team Harmony Foundation along with former Celtics Assistant Coach and now Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice, Jon Jennings. Jon and Lenny founded Team Harmony after the passing of Celtics Captain Reggie Lewis, whom Jon was close to while coaching the Celtics. Jon and Reggie had wanted to create an event that brought students of all different backgrounds together in a rally to fight hatred and bigotry. To pursue this goal, Lenny came together with Jon and helped found the largest gathering of youth in America to fight hatred and bigotry — Team Harmony. Lenny addressed over 12,000 students from all over New England at Team Harmony VI.


Lenny Zakim with his wife, Joyce

Lenny was the Regional Executive Director of the Anti-Defamation League of New England for the last 20 years. He was instrumental in achieving the ADL's mission by being one of the most quoted Jewish civil rights leaders in the region. Lenny was also quick to tend to incidents of hate crimes or violence that affected groups throughout the region, often visiting synagogues that had been desecrated or advising schools that had problems with hate crimes.

He was a noted activist in his efforts to counter bigotry and unite diverse racial, religious, and ethnic groups. He often appeared on radio and television as a Jewish community spokesperson and frequently addressed high school audiences. He published numerous articles on the Middle East, Black/Jewish, and Catholic/Jewish relations, and anti-Semitism; was the author of a Brandeis University publication on coalition building; and wrote a book on anti-Semitism titled Lift Up Your Voice, that was published in the fall of 1998.

Lenny served on the Reebok Human Rights Advisory Board and was a member of Harvard's national Black/Jewish working group. He received numerous awards, including the Jewish Community Relations Council's top Jewish professional award, Northeastern University's Human Rights Leadership Award, the National Conference on Christians and Jews Humanitarian Award, and in 1996, he was awarded an honorary degree in humane letters from Brandeis University. In 1997, he received the Urban League's Community Service Award and the Catholic Charities Medal, and in 1998 he received The Wellness Community's Gilda Radner Award. Lenny was honored by Combined Jewish Philanthropies. On a trip to Rome in November, 1998, Lenny was honored with the highest lay honor in the Catholic Church, The Knighthood of St. Gregory, for his work in establishing a greater understanding between Catholics and Jews in the New England region. Lenny was knighted by Pope John Paul II.

In Lenny's own words: "I had a really good life. And the diagnosis of cancer was the end of that life as I knew it. Being told you have cancer is still, I think, the three worst words you can hear in your entire life. When you're diagnosed with cancer, you are stripped of titles, you're stripped of previous power, ideas of power, illusions of control. Cancer is a disease that doesn't just affect your body, it affects your mind, it affects your soul, it affects your heart. It affects every relationship you have. I found that you want to try to wage a full scale mobilization of resources to deal with this disease. That's why it's important in the process of treatment to do something —whether it's acupuncture, vitamins, more water, changing your diet, massage, guided imagery, or music therapy."

Lenny's passion for complementary therapies bore fruit on November 27, 2000, when the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute opened the Leonard P. Zakim Center for Integrated Therapies. The center provides complementary therapies to patients and their families, offers education on complementary therapies to patients, families, and staff, and advances knowledge of effectiveness and outcomes of these therapies through peer-reviewed, evidence-based clinical research.

Lenny Zakim is survived by his wife Joyce, daughters Deena and Shari, and son Joshua.


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