The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston bestowed its first ever “Lifetime Achievement Award” to a great Jew, a great Bostonian, and a great man, Albert Sherman. Albie’s official job is vice chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, but his influence goes far beyond that post. (Although, it can be fairly stated, as UMass Medical School’s Chancellor Aaron Lazare did yesterday, that Albie’s commitment to the school helped contribute to its winning a Nobel Prize in 2006.) He is a confidante, fixer, and strategist for the powerful and politically active. A graduate of Boston English High School and a pharmacist by training and education, he has relationships that transcend the decades.
Institutionally, Albie has long been the one member of Boston’s Jewish community entirely comfortable and welcomed-in the city’s largely Irish and Italian political culture. Nancy Kaufmann, the JCRC’s executive director, said as much at yesterday’s ceremony. “Albie opened the doors of the State House to the organized Jewish community.” He is well-known by most members of the Boston Police as the Police Academy’s pharmaceuticals instructor. Albie really has built bridges. I remember one year when his name was mentioned twice at the famous St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast in South Boston. He remembers Louis Farrakhan at Boston English, where he also befriended legendary Boston Globe sports columnist Will McDonough among others whose names are now part of civic lore.
Albie is also well known for his commitment to the State of Israel. Each summer, he leads a mission of prominent Bostonians to Israel. For example, he took Congressman Stephen Lynch to his first trip to the Middle East several years ago. Mayor Menino, who went with Albie on a mission with his wife Angela, himself a one-of-a-kind, always calls Albie one of the last “originals” around.
The tribute to Albie brought a large and diverse collection of individuals to the ceremony yesterday. Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray offered a proclamation on behalf of himself and the new Governor Deval Patrick. Lazare, Senate President Robert Travaglini and former Senate President William M. Bulger all spoke in honor of Albie.
Travaglini commenced his remarks with word of praise with Albie’s wife, Linda Sherman. “Albie does have a boss and her name is Linda.” He then offered some words about Albie, which are very significant for people in the world of politics. “In this business, the bulk of our relationships are built on convenience,” Travaglini said, recalling Albie coming to visit to him when he was in the midst of serious health problems. “When I faced physical difficulties, one of the first people that up the stairs to my recovery was you. That was the true measure of the friendship and respect we have for each other.”
Bulger, who rarely appears publicly, also spoke. “You are a pal to so many of us,” he said humbly. “You’re the best guy around. It’s my privilege to be here for you.”
The president of Combined Jewish Philanthropies, Barry Shrage, celebrated Albie in the Jewish context invoking the tzedakah box award Sherman received. “The love you have for the Jewish people will more than fill this box, this room and the golden dome across the street,” said Shrage, who called Albie, a long with his father Nathan Shrage, one of the “two great pharmacists in my life.”
It’s easy to snipe at longtime public officials and the organized Jewish community. But yesterday they came together to honor a truly deserving man, a mentsch, Albert Sherman.
edit…The photo credit for above did not come through. It is a January 31, 2007 Boston Globe photo of Albert Sherman and Attorney General Martha Coakley.