In Memoriam: How Ab taught us that “democracy is a verb.”

Walking into the Mikva Challenge office this morning, I had a flashback to when I was ten years old in 1976 and walked into Ab Mikva’s campaign office in Evanston. Back then, as now, there were young people everywhere coming in to work, a place where young people are valued. Today I saw teens heading to their posts on the Mikva Challenge Mayoral Youth Commission, Chicago Housing Authority Youth Council, Teen Health Council, Juvenile Justice Council, and other Mikva Challenge youth councils and summer fellowships (part of a 208-strong youth cohort we hired this summer for public sector internships). The staff was buzzing around, the phone was ringing, journalists were waiting in the lobby, and there was a wonderful energy of controlled chaos. It felt like going back home, it felt like community — that unique Mikva kind of community that is unapologetically working to improve the world and participating passionately in our civic life.

During Ab Mikva’s long public service career, he built community, he nurtured young people, he fought for equality and justice, and he valued the role of the regular citizen who participates in our democracy. As Senator Richard Durbin said today, Ab Mikva was our “North Star” and a role model for him and countless other public servants. Ab’s honesty and integrity were unassailable, and he inspired thousands of “Mikva disciples” to get involved in public service and activism. Through Mikva Challenge, he now has an even bigger army of tens of thousands of followers jumping into public service, eager to improve their country and world.

What a legacy, what a model of a life well lived. He is a guide for all of us on how to participate meaningfully in civic life. Please read the touching obituary that Ab’s dear friend and former staff member Sandy Horwitt wrote here. You may also share your memories of Ab with us here, as well on our Facebook page, or Twitter. More tributes from around Chicago and the nation can be found here.

What many might not know about Abner Mikva is that he was an even better husband and father than he was a public servant. Executive Director Michelle Morales and the entire staff at Mikva Challenge extend our deepest condolences to his wife, Zoe, and their children – Judge Mary Mikva (Steve Cohen), Laurie Mikva (James Pfander), Rabbi Rachel Mikva (Mark Rosenberg), and their seven grandchildren –Rebecca, Jordan, Sarah, Samantha, Benjamin, Jacob, and Keren. Information about a public memorial for Ab will be available on the Mikva Challenge website ( later this month.

We salute you, Ab. You walked the walk, and you showed us how we could, too. May you rest in peace.

-Brian Brady, National Director, Mikva Challenge, 7/5/16