Posted by Al Anile
Guest Speaker Judith-Rae E. Ross
Rabbi Neil Brief and Judith-Rae E. Ross were the scheduled speaker for November 26, 2019. However for health reason Rabbi Brief could not make it, Judith was so gracious as to do the presentation on the book "A Rabbi:  No More, No Less", of which she is the author.
America was in the throes of the Great Depression, leaving one out of four Americans unemployed. Brownsville, with its immigrant and minority population, had more than its share of the worried, the poor and the hungry.
The weather made matters worse. Heat, drought and dust storms hit the Great Plains, decimating the wheat crop, sending grain prices soaring.
This was the world that greeted Rabbi Neil Brief when he was born on Wednesday, October 10, 1934 at Beth Israel Hospital in Brooklyn, one of the five Burroughs that comprised New York City. Rabbi Brief's family history paralleled the history of many Jews who came to America between 1881 and 1924
Not much is known about the Brief family coming to America. Rabbi Brief's father, Hyman (1905-1961) and his family, presumably came from Poland-in 1905 part of Imperial Russia-in search of more opportunity and freedom from persecution.
Just prior to being installed as the Rabbi at the Niles Township Jewish Congregation in Skokie, Illinois a reporter from the Chicago Jewish Post and Opinion asked Neil Brief what he wanted to accomplish and what did he want to be at his new pulpit. Brief answered, "A rabbi. No more, no less." Hence the title of the book.
Retired Rabbi Neil Brief of Ezra-Habonim, the Niles Township Jewish Congregation, remains active in the synagogue, where he served for some 45 years, and in the Skokie community.
There was big party Ezra-Habonim, planned by the Niles Township Jewish Congregation for emeritus Rabbi Neil Brief's 80th birthday. But unfortunately it never came to pass, because his wife Erica, Unexpectedly died on September 12, 2016 while they were vacationing on a cruise.
About the book's author:
Judith-Rae E. Ross' career has spanned teaching, academic research, journalism and politics and she has distinguished herself in all four fields. To that end Ross has been cited numerous times in "Who's Who." She earned her Ph.D. at the University of Illinois, Chicago in 1978.
Between all her fields Ross has published c.1000 articles and essays. One of her favorite works was her charting of the impact of Anne Boleyn's image on American culture. Ross' interest in history's 'bad girls' has led her to conclude that many of them actually helped women out of the kitchen and into the workplace and political arena. In addition, Ross has shown how ecology affected western history, finding the roots of the dangers that face all of us today.
Her political work includes hands on campaign work, political office and publications. In 1999 Ross gave a paper on voting patterns and the 1998 primary in the Illinois 9th Congressional district at a symposium in Lodz, Poland. Lech Walesa was sitting in the front row.
As a Trustee in Niles Township  Ross pearheaded the creation of a child care center-which earned the highest ratings given nationally. The center remained open for 24 years. She was also the avid supporter of the creation of the Niles Township Food Pantry, and assisted the Supervisor in creating grants to many not-for-profit organizations within Niles Township. Ross' journalism ran the gamut from investigative reporting, editorials, blogs and community news. Ross managed to goad the Chicago Housing Authority into cleaning up some of their housing sites. Ross' blog "Judith's Java" ran for 4 1/2 years and highlighted both unsung heroes as well as unknown villains. Local TV stations read it for assignment ideas, and some of her arguments were paraphrased one a national cable show. 
Ross is married to Allan B. Ross and they recently celebrated their 50th anniversary. They have one son, Sol and two wondrous granddaughters, Olivia and Lilah. She has lived in Skokie for over 50 years.