Obituary for Mark Finkelstein

The entire Federation board and staff along with the whole community are heartbroken with sad news, the loss of Mark Finkelstein, Director of Jewish Community Relations.

Mark served the Jewish community in Des Moines, the State of Iowa, and Nationally. Few people were privileged to know the full scope of Mark’s work, his knowledge, and the impact he had in the Jewish community and in his work with people of all backgrounds and beliefs. We got to see it daily.  As President of the Jewish Federation of Greater Des Moines, my family and I say we lost a “real mensch”. He truly was a man of integrity and honor with a heart in the right place.  Mark WILL be missed. Our deepest sympathy to his family and friends as well as every member of the communities whose lives he touched.  

Michael Wolnerman, President

Mark Stephen Finkelstein, 69, of Windsor Heights, Iowa, died Wednesday, December 25, 2019, at the Iowa Jewish Life Center in Des Moines. He was born October 31, 1950 in Brooklyn, New York to Jack Arnold & Irene Pauline (Lemus) Finkelstein.

Mark studied at New York City’s High School of Performing Arts and received his Ph.D. in Music Education with emphasis on Music History at Michigan State University. While at MSU, he served on the Public Affairs Committee of the Lansing Jewish Federation and was appointed as Hillel Director, for which he was honored twice.

Mark came to Des Moines in 1996 to serve as Community Relations Director for the Jewish Federation of Greater Des Moines. For the past 23 years he worked to unify different ethnic and religious communities, promote Holocaust education, monitor anti-Semitism, ensure adequate separation between religion and state, teach about Judaism, advocate for Israel, and promote civil rights for all.

Mark was a founding member of, and played trumpet in, a local klezmer band, the Java Jews. With his upbeat demeanor, sense of humor, and compassion and care for all, he served as a vital member of the Jewish community and local community at large.

He is survived by his wife, Jody Hramits, daughter, Mayim Yael, sons, Sheya Pardes and Aden Raviv, and sister, Elyse Bento.

In his honor, the Jewish Federation has set up the Mark Finkelstein Memorial Fund if you would like to make a donation in his memory.

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