Frank Sinatra reflects on his career in the 1969 ballad, “My Way,” but Ol’ Blue Eyes may have been foreshadowing the journey of another leader as well. A leader who, like Sinatra, is bold, a straight-shooter, generous, and not afraid to dream big. In the aging world, we know him as Jack Kupferman.
Gray Panthers NYC is proud to have been led by Jack for the past 15 consecutive years.
As Jack closes the final curtain on his role as President of Gray Panthers NYC and embarks on a new and exciting position as Chief Catalyst Officer, we would like to look back on his exceptional work as President. Standing on the shoulders of those who came before him in Gray Panthers' leadership, Jack continued to mobilize our organization and the human rights of older adults locally within NYC, statewide, nationally, and internationally.
The breadth and depth of Gray Panthers NYC’s actions under Jack’s leadership could encompass a novella. Though it would be a disservice not to touch on some of the work Gray Panthers NYC has accomplished over the last decade and a half. Speaking in terms of local advocacy, Jack and his team have spoken out on hate crimes against older New Yorkers, collaborated with NYC-based organizations to educate others on the intersection of climate change and aging through the Gray and Green Coalition, facilitated death cafes to promote an open line of communication about the inevitable aspects of life, produced directories on legal services as well as COVID-19 resources, and much more.
Gray Panthers NYC has been well-regarded as a key player in New York State and United States aging efforts too. Jack successfully urged the New York State Comptroller to audit state nursing homes with outstanding violations and has created a team that promotes nursing home transformation through an ongoing webinar series titled Transformation Tuesdays. Finally, he has advocated for the rights of older persons in various countries through his United Nations representation.
As Gray Panthers’ representative to the NGO Committee on Ageing, Jack was instrumental in the creation of literacy courses for older adults in Nepal, the development of a small microfinance fund for older women in Pakistan, and has partaken in other mission visits to promote the well-being of older adults in developing and developed countries. Jack sat at the Argentina Mission when the Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing was founded in 2010 and has attended as well as spoken at various United Nations summits and meetings to demonstrate the need for a legally binding document to promote the rights of older persons nationally.
The core mission of Gray Panthers is age and youth in action. Jack certainly lives a life that
is full of these intergenerational connections. He founded the internship program roughly ten years ago and has facilitated a community of young and old working together to advocate for the rights of older adults in numerous ways. Jack considers the internship program one of his proudest accomplishments despite the opportunities he has had locally, statewide, nationally and globally. In his own way, Jack has created a program unlike any other. One that is built on love, encouragement, and high standards.
Jack may have had some regrets at the beginning of his Gray Panthers NYC leadership journey back in 2007, such as working full-time and being Gray Panthers NYC’s full-time President, but these regrets are too few to speak about. Though, he stepped up and did what he had to do to make sure that Gray Panthers remained prominent and saw that he did so without exemption.
He has built a small but mighty team of volunteers who bring with them unique skills. These skills have helped Jack leverage Gray Panthers NYC to new heights and have given him the bandwidth to bring his hopes and dreams to fruition. Many of these include enacting a social change to address ageism in a realistic fashion, transforming long-term care from a policy perspective, and raising the profile of intergenerational solidarity so that these relationships benefit everyone of all ages. Each and every one of these dreams has been chipped away little by little over the years. I would like to think this progress has been accomplished because Jack went about recruiting his close-knit team in his own unique way; by offering us a place where we can showcase our worth and be a part of something larger than we ever could have imagined.
Jack often considers himself a “neurotic Jewish boy,” but even in the times when he may have taken on more than he could handle, Jack has successfully come out standing tall on the other end. His dedication to making strides forward within the aging field is what propels Jack to face any fears he may have. As a boy, Jack recounts fantasizing about “making a positive impact for billions of people” as he sat under a shade tree located on his parents' property that housed the Garnerville Home for Adults, a residential care home in Rockland County, New York.
That initial spark ignited a drive in him that made him a determined President and will make him an even better Chief Catalyst Officer. In his new role within Gray Panthers NYC, Jack plans to motivate changes to systems of care for older persons in low-income countries, such as in Malawi, where a long-term care system is virtually nonexistent. I believe Jack can accomplish a great deal just by being himself and approaching this role in his own way, an approach to the leadership he has perfected over the past decade and a half. Now that you have reached the end of this spotlight, I urge you to play Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” and reflect on Jack’s leadership thus far.
This spotlight has been written by Sophia Casale, a dedicated former Gray Panthers NYC intern and current Volunteer Project Coordinator.