On Sunday, July 25, 2021, the J Street family suffered the terrible loss of one our most beloved, talented and respected members and leaders, National Political Director Ilya Braverman.
Ilya passed away peacefully at home, surrounded by his wife Kelsey and close family and loved ones, after a battle with cancer. He was 33 years old — far, far too young to have left us.
It’s simply impossible to overstate just how special, how important and how appreciated Ilya was as a person and as a colleague. In his over seven years at J Street, he worked his way from an initial position as a development assistant to his later roles as a critical member of J Street’s political team and ultimately as the team’s leader. In that time, he consistently showed the passion, dedication, brilliance and kindness that made him so well-liked, admired and valued.
His achievements in building and then leading J Street’s political team and JStreetPAC were simply incredible. He played a leading role in turning it into one of the most effective, impactful and well-known PACs in the country, an amazing vehicle to help elect and support principled candidates who would fight for the values and priorities held by J Street and the majority of American Jews — values that meant so much to Ilya.
Building a network of close relationships throughout Washington and across the country, Ilya had already established himself as a well-known progressive political operative by the time he reached his thirties — winning the respect and appreciation of members of Congress, star candidates and leaders throughout the progressive movement and the American Jewish community.
Beyond his staggering professional accomplishments in such a short amount of time, where Ilya truly shone was in his relationships with his colleagues and the many, many J Street leaders and activists with whom he worked every day.
Every day he made us laugh with his wry sense of humor and dazzled us with his brilliant smile. Every day he did whatever he could to make us feel supported, cared for and seen, and to spread confidence that whatever task lay ahead of us, we could accomplish it. To work on a project of any kind with Ilya was to feel confident that you were in the safest of hands, working with the best and the brightest — and with the kindest. For so many of his younger colleagues he was a mentor; but even for his older colleagues and peers he was someone to look up to, someone to look to for help and comfort, a smart perspective or just a sympathetic ear.
Ilya’s loss at such a young age feels staggeringly painful and deeply unfair. He was able to accomplish so much and touch so many people even in his relatively short time with us; there’s simply no doubt that he would have gone on to do so much more, to further astonish us all with his success as a progressive leader and his impact as a person. He was a rising star who should have had many years to shine brightly.
Nothing can ever compensate or make up for the devastating loss of someone so special. At the same time, we will continue to feel Ilya’s presence and his contributions every day, when we look around at the organization and movement he helped to build, at the important leaders he helped to elect, and at all the lives he touched. We will strive to honor and celebrate his memory not only by remembering so many special moments with him, but also by trying to live and work in the way that he did: With optimism and fighting spirit; with humility and dedication; with humor and laughter; with compassion and kindness.
For the entire J Street community and all who knew him, Ilya’s memory and his legacy will truly be a blessing.