In Memoriam: Global Economist and Spiritual Guide Jennie Ilene Litvack

Last week in Washington, thousands came together to mourn the loss of Jennie Ilene Litvack — a major contributor to the struggle against global poverty, a pillar of her more immediate community, and a loving wife and mother of three.

Born in Montreal, Canada, Litvack earned her MA and PhD from the prestigious Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. An economist devoted to the welfare of the world’s marginalized and disenfranchised, she served the World Bank for two decades in its mission to raise the living standards, health, and wellbeing of millions. She held the positions of lead economist of human development for Latin America, lead economist for Morocco, and country economist for Vietnam. Additionally, in work across the African continent, she and her colleagues drew inspiration and new practices from Litvack’s doctoral research on pharmaceutical pricing in rural health centers in northern Cameroon. Her innovations have been credited with saving millions of lives.

In 2010, Litvack took the rare and bold decision to depart an outstanding career for an altogether different realm of work. She devoted herself to the cause of Jewish religious pluralism and the deepening of Jewish spiritual life. Her efforts yielded, inter alia, the establishment of the award-winning Jewish Mindfulness Center in Washington, and the development of Or Halev (“Light of the Heart”), a center for Jewish spirituality and meditation in Israel. At Congregation Adas Israel in Washington, Litvack also achieved renown as a preeminent blower of the Shofar — a ram’s horn used to herald the advent of the new year in Jewish congregational worship. Performing on the Shofar was also a kind of lateral move for Litvack, a Jazz trumpeter to boot, whom late Jazz legend Dizzy Gillespie befriended and designated as his goddaughter. 

Among her extended loving family, Litvack is survived by three sons and her husband, Robert Satloff, the long-serving executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

May the living God grant comfort and solace to Litvack’s family, and may lovers of peace and progress draw inspiration from her living memory.