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In Memoriam: Jerry Davidoff, Unitarian Universalist Lay Leader
In Memoriam: Jerry Davidoff, Unitarian Universalist Lay Leader

Jerry Davidoff died November 7, 2009, at the Connecticut Hospice unit at Norwalk Hospital of complications from encephalitis, a virus of the brain. He was 83. Mr. Davidoff was an attorney by profession, a former elected official in his longtime home of Westport, CT, a champion of civil liberties, and a nationally active lay leader in the Unitarian Universalist faith movement.

Born July 1, 1926, in New York City, Jerry Davidoff was a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Yale Law School. While practicing law in New York City, he met and in 1955 married the former Denise Ellen (Denny) Taft of Brooklyn, NY.

The marriage of Jerry and Denise Davidoff produced two sons Douglass, born in 1957, a public relations and marketing consultant in Arlington, MA; and John, born in 1960, and owner of Davidoff Communications, a strategy, sales, and marketing consultancy located in Chicago.

Jerry and Denny Davidoff lived in Westport, CT, and Mr. Davidoff served for nine years as an elected member of the Board of Education and four years as an elected nonpartisan member of the Representative Town Meeting. He also served as president of the Westport Bar Association. In 1960, he ran unsuccessfully for the Connecticut House of Representatives from Westport. It was in his work for not-for-profits, especially religious organizations, that Mr. Davidoff advocated for civil rights and civil liberties, explored the possibilities for lay leadership in a faith characterized by congregational polity, and advocated for support of professional ministers to transform lives of their parishioners.

Jerry Davidoff was chair of the Unitarian Universalist Association's (UUA's) Election Review Committee, which was concerned with how denominational election campaigns might be improved, and chaired the Election Campaign Practices Committee, concerned with monitoring and mediating between candidates in contested denominational elections. He was a member of the Commission on Appraisal and co-authored "Our Professional Ministry" (PDF, 111 pages), a study of the gatekeeping functions for Unitarian Universalist (UU) ministry. He was a member for eight years of the Ministerial Fellowship Committee, nationally responsible for credentialing UU ministers and, when necessary, disciplining them.

Mr. Davidoff was also a trustee of the Alban Institute, a consulting, publishing and research organization based in Herndon, VA, with the mission of assisting the development of churches and church leadership. He had served as secretary of the board and a member of its Executive Committee.

Along with his wife, who served as Moderator of the Association (1993-2001), Jerry Davidoff received the Distinguished Service to the Cause of Unitarian Universalism Award by the UUA in 2006.He served as a mentor to young adults entering the UU ministry and was known as a fierce advocate for UU youth. His dedication to Unitarian Universalist lay leadership inspired the creation of the Davidoff Fund for Lay Leadership. The Fund enables the UUA to promote the development and training of lay leaders to share the ministry of community building with religious professionals and each other. Mr. Davidoff was also honored by Unitarian Universalists for Jewish Awareness, which named their annual sermon award in his honor.

In addition to his wife and sons, Jerry Davidoff is survived by his daughter-in-law, Jacki Gelb Davidoff of Evanston, IL; four grandchildren; and Douglass Davidoff’s partner, Rev. Marta Flanagan of Arlington, MA.

Messages of condolence may be sent as follows:

davidoff [dot] denise [at] yahoo [dot] com (Denny Davidoff) - 26 Cove Ave., Apt. 5-E, Norwalk CT 06855
douglass [dot] davidoff [at] gmail [dot] com (Douglass Davidoff) - 45 Fairmont St., Arlington MA 02474john [at] davidoffcommunications [dot] com">
John Davidoff
- 816 Monticello Place, Evanston IL 60201

A memorial service will take place on Saturday, November 28, at 5:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Church in Westport, 10 Lyons Plains Road, with the Revs. Marta Flanagan and Olivia Holmes officiating. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial contributions be made to the Living Tradition Fund of the Unitarian Universalist Association, or to the Interfaith Alliance Foundation in Washington, DC, or to the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund in Hartford, CT.

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