In Memoriam: Scott Kennedy

November 20, 2011-Scott Kennedy, chairman of the board of Directors of the IAPB, travel director of many IFPB delegates and friend of all of us, dies.  Scott died Sunday in his sleep in Santa Cruz, California, just a week after hosting the last United Nations interfaith delegation.

While the shock and pain of this news are still fresh, we all mourn and wish peace to his family.  To say that Scott had a tremendous impact on interfaith peacekeepers would be an understatement.  Our work on sending delegations (39 since 2001) was based on work with the delegations he led, starting with the trip Scott and Alan Solomonov took in 1975.  Since then, Scott's work with the Center for Nonviolence, The Fellowship for reconciliation and witness in the Middle East have made significant contributions to what we know today as interfaith peacekeepers.  Scott was a tireless attorney, a dedicated travel leader, an active and dedicated board member who enjoyed learning and working with him.

Trying hard to summon the energy he exuded, we offer this page as a tribute to him.

Scroll down, or click one of these links:

Slideshow - Tributes - Scott Kennedy Memorial Scholarship Fund


Slideshow and Video

A collection of photos from some of the delegations Scott has led.

Click here for online video where Scott describes some of his work with IFPB.


When Scott received the El-Hibri Peace Education Prize in 2008, Joe Groves, longtime friend of Scott and IFPB Senior Fellow, wrote the following:

I have worked with Scott Kennedy on Middle East peace education for twenty years in many varied venues. What fun! Even though we live on opposite coasts, our collaboration has been consistent, from forming Middle East Witness to take delegations to Israel/Palestine, to working together on FOR’s Middle East Task Force, to collaborating on FOR’s Interfaith Peace-Builders Program, to creating an independent Interfaith Peace-Builders organization. That’s one of Scott’s defining features—creating anew by building on strong and deep relationships.  Programs can come and go—it’s the people who are crucial. A second defining feature is that Scott makes the work fun, in a deep, complex way that far exceeds laughter (although there is plenty of that). It’s fun stemming from creativity, imagination, stimulating conversation, immense energy, and profound commitment to the work of Middle East peace. We need all of those qualities to sustain work on Israel/Palestine in the midst of consistently grim and discouraging realities. Someone who brings fun to Middle East work—what more can you ask! And what better way to lead in peace education.  


Jacob Pace, IFPB Communications and Grant Coordinator first met Scott as an intern at the Resource Center for Nonviolence. He writes:

I’ll miss Scott a great deal.  As much as anyone else in my life, he is the reason that I am where I am today.  He found me – or I found him – or we found each other – at the exact perfect time.  It was one of those examples of the universe conspiring to change your whole course of existence.

When, in my first year at university, I called the Resource Center for Nonviolence to inquire about an internship opportunity I knew where Palestine was, but had only the faintest idea of what was occurring there.  Unlike most interns, who answered the phone and staffed the bookstore, I was sent straight to Scott and began working immediately on the Middle East Program.

Over the next three-four years I interned and then worked part-time with Scott and for the Resource Center.  I also worked for one of his successful campaigns for Santa Cruz City Council.  When I graduated, he opened his address book to me and helped me fundraiser to afford an IFPB delegation.  And he connected me with Raji Sourani at the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza City and I was given an internship there.  After 6 months in Gaza, I returned again to Santa Cruz where Scott scraped up enough money to employ me full time for 3 months, after which I returned again to Palestine.

When I think of Scott, I think of him first as a teacher.  That’s what he was to me.  He was the kind of very rare teacher, who approached his work with astounding nuance and patience.  He let me chart my own course, but always supported me.  He let me fail and let me learn from that failure.  He offered quiet guidance only when it was necessary, and never more.

Many who know Scott from his political personality in Santa Cruz, know him as a passionate and stubborn leader.  That he was.  But it was his quiet, steady and careful approach to teaching and learning that has always been the most significant for me and, I suspect, for many, many others.

Today and in the years to come, we can only hope to carry Scott’s work forward and to do so with the kind of vigilance and dedication which he always maintained.  He is, and will always be, present in that work and it is there that I will always remember him.


Mark Johnson, Fellowship of Reconciliation Executive Director and IFPB Board Member

It is at the intersection of our personal and professional lives that our most precious and enduring friendships form; where that distinction of work life and private life is completely blurred. The public tributes to Scott Kennedy already have and will continue to put a spotlight on the same experience I have had in getting to know him. He was selfless in a deeply principled way, a brother, in the family of peace makers, to all.

Partly, I think, because of our shared lifelong engagement in Middle East issue, when Scott was awarded the El Hibri Foundation Peace Educator award in 2009, he saw that I had an invitation to the ceremony. After Mubarak Awad warmly introduced Scott, and Fuad El Hibri presented the plaque and check for the prize, I remember Scott’s warmly humored grin as he walked back and handed the check to his wife Kris, noting with pride that her job made his work possible. Their partnership was intimate and public in his work.

While our paths crossed fairly often, and we were on telephone conference calls and in email correspondence routinely, the last time I saw Scott and Kris was when he received the Pfeffer Award as an international peace maker from the Fellowship of Reconciliation in 2010. It was touching to experience his humble appreciation for this recognition, but his joy was almost uncontainable when he discovered his daughter and her husband were flying in from France to be with them for the award ceremony. I drove them all back in to Manhattan after the award ceremony in Nyack and they tumbled out of the car laughing with the pleasure to be together as a family for a Circle Line boat tour and a night on the town together. Palpable is the word that best describes for me, Scott’s understanding of and commitment to nonviolence, to peace, and to love. Herewith our tears of gratitude and sorrow.

Excepted from full post here.


Kathleen Rolenz and Wayne Arnason just traveled on the 2011 Olive Harvest Delegation with Scott. They remained in Jerusalem after the delegation ended.

As the shock wore off, we found gratitude arising in our hearts that we had been given the great gift of being in Scott's last delegation.

When we came in the door tonight, the familiar faces of the hotel staff were sitting by themselves in the lobby, and we wondered if they heard. They had not. The man who manages the desk put his face in his hands, and said "He put into my hands $1500 for the school in Ramallah!"  One more gift and legacy some of us were aware Scott was leaving here.

We have just a few more days to go here and on Thanksgiving Day when we leave here our hearts will be full of gratitude for all that we learned from Scott and shared with you.


George Rishmawi, a Palestinian activist and longtime friend of Scott and IFPB writes:

Scott, there will never ever be somebody like you and how you were devoted for restoring humanity in this world and devoted for your family, we will always remember you and your memory is carved in hard rock and every stone in Palestine, hard to believe it, rest in Peace my friend Abu Butrus, rest in Peace because all the people whom you worked with and devoted your time to, will continue your message of Non Violence and will keep the torch lit, rest in Peace.



Sandra Mackie, a member of the IFPB board and a fellow traveler with Scott on a 2009 delegation.

I have known Scott for only a short time but have considered him a friend of the best kind, a friend of the soul, one who dedicated his life to justice and peace for all God’s people of every nation and faith.  I feel honored to have called him friend.

From day one of the Olive Harvest Festival Delegation in 2009, I was impressed by his dedication to “the higher road.”  I have been inspired by his ability to articulate what is right and just.  I have been touched by his love of non-violent methods to change the world.


Andrea Whitmore traveled on an IFPB delegation with Scott in 2004.

Scott led my life-changing delegation to Palestine-Israel. I remember him for his patience with my ignorance. I remember him for his friendships, so obviously genuine, with both Palestinians and Israelis. I remember his joy as he greeted old friends, Muslims, Christians, Jews, and his pride in his son Ben, who accompanied us and who also had friends in the Middle East and was welcomed as family by our guide, Rimon.

That trip, for me, led to passionate involvement in the cause of justice for Palestine. I like to think that Scott would be proud that such an ignorant soul could become a reasonably knowledgeable activist. His delegations, I like to think, have resulted in many of us bringing the story of Palestine--yes, and of Israel--to friends and family back home so that one day, maybe in the not-too-distant future, his vision of peaceful coexistence will become reality.


Vivien Sansour of Canaan Fair Trade writes:

Scott was such an amazing man and we have loved having him and the people who he brought every year. This year I remember his patience as we were organizing their stay and his joy speaking to the farmers at our festival. Humble and real. He will be always missed.  In Arabic when someone passes we say, Atakum Omru "He gave you his life"....I pray that we will all follow his courageous footsteps in the life he has given us.


Sami Awad, director of Holy Land Trust and friend of Scott.

I start my day with deep sadness as I read the news of the passing of our dear friend Scott Kennedy... he was with us last week at Holy Land Trust leading one of the many many delegations to the Holy Land. Thank you Scott for everything you did to promote peace and justice in the Holy Land. You will be truly missed and we carry your message forward.


Dorothy Naor of New Profile.

It is with great sadness that I learned today that a dear friend, Scott Kennedy, had died.   Just 2 weeks ago he was here in Israel and Palestine, leading the olive harvest delegation of the Interfaith Peace Builders and the Resource Center for Nonviolence.  He and the delegation met with 4 of us representing New Profile.  It is hard to believe that this was his last visit.  I will miss him greatly, and I know that there are many others here in Israel who feel the same. 


Judy Lee traveled on an IFPB delegation in 2006 with Scott.

Scott led our delegation with much love, hope and determination.  He taught us as much, maybe more, than humanly possible in the short time we were with him in Palestine and Israel.  I remember the little things he did while we were there. When we were at the Tent of Nations I told Scott my back limited my ability to pick olives.  Scott replied that it was good I was there and could use that time to visit with the family.  A long visit with Amal Nassar that I will remember forever confirmed his statement. 

In a couple of weeks I'll be back in Bethlehem for the Kairos for Global Justice meeting.  Certainly I'll be thinking of Scott Kennedy.


David Briones, 2010 IFPB delegate.

I had the honor and privilege to travel with Scott last year to Israel/Palestine with IFPB. It was my first time to the region but Scott's knowledge and dedication made the trip a once in a lifetime experience. He was a wonderful man that will be greatly missed by so many.


Jean Carr, 2010 IFPB delegate.

None of us will ever be the same for having known this great one...tears flow...we indeed must carry on his work...


John Eby traveled with Scott on the November 2011 delegation.

It is not every day that someone like me meets a truly great person, a transcendent character whose life reaches well beyond his own to resonate with many whose roots are watered by his gift of presence.  And those special people can appear in ways one wouldn’t expect:  Scott didn’t look like what I tend to expect in a transcendent personality.  And yet he was so clearly just that, for literally everywhere we went in the Holy Land we witnessed the uplifting sincere joy in the faces of Palestinians and Israelis when they saw Scott.

It was easy to appreciate Scott’s sharp mind and quick wit, his astounding knowledge of Palestine and Israel, and his deep concern for human justice.  Scott also had the gift of presence, though; his innate charisma as well as his size made him a considerable presence despite his modest demeanor, but even more importantly he was able to be present to others in a way that spoke to hearts and led people confidently, comfortably on.

Scott Kennedy’s was a life well-lived and so his passing, albeit grievous, was graceful indeed.  It is lives such as his that point the rest of us to glimmers of hope that nothing is finished and all shall be well.


Brad and Sandra Gerrish also traveled with Scott on the November 2011 delegation.

Our Olive Harvest Delegation trip was remarkable. The intensity and heartfelt passion of our trip leaders was evident in the careful planning and comprehensive agenda. The organizations and individuals we met were keen, savvy, and inspirational committed. Our variety of experiences complemented each other and served as a platform for an in-depth and balanced perspective.

Sandra and I were touched, angered, bewildered, and incredulous at what we saw and heard. The consistency of the message of sometimes insidious, sometimes flagrant human rights abuse was startling. We were heartsick at the longstanding obstacles that intruded into so many aspects of Palestinian life. We have been deeply affected and strongly convicted to do our best, in ways that open to us, to play our role in presenting the I/P issues and confronting the propaganda that plagues our government, media, and generally uninformed population. We are presently working to prepare a presentation "From Birmingham to Bethlehem" for our Adult Ed Sunday School at our home Presbyterian Church. Once this is done we will have a template for more speaking opportunities, with requests already in the pipeline.

WE RELATE THE ABOVE INFO BECAUSE THE BEST TESTIMONY TO SCOTT THAT WE CAN THINK OF IS THAT HE, ALONG WITH YOURSELVES, CHANGED OUR LIVES. When Sandra and I joined the IFPB delegation we had zero activist-type experience. We have never been politically active, primarily feeling cynical that anything could be accomplished without self-interest generated dollars. Scott's go-the-distance commitment, matched by his intellectual grasp, complemented by his well reasoned conviction, made clear by his gift of expression, all amplified by his poignant metaphors and incisive wit ... all combined to provide for us a remarkable experience. We listened and learned from Scott. Most importantly, Scott was a deft leader and helped us to experience and grow in our desire and confidence to speak out for a just resolution and peace.  

Scott was a uniquely gifted man. His loyalty to friends and his bonds to the struggling peoples of Israel and Palestine was palpable. We drew from his energy. We benefited from his prolific writing. We grew from the rich content of his knowledge. We felt valued and respected. We laughed at his unexpected contrasts - at times gentle, sensitive, tactful ... at times forceful, incisive, emphatic,  We will miss an ongoing dialogue and a growing relationship with Scott.

We know that the pain of loss is so much greater for those who knew Scott well. We know that every tear shed in grief will protect the loving, happy, funny memories that trigger the outpouring of such sadness.


Donate to the Scott Kennedy Memorial Scholarship Fund

Scott’s advocacy included tireless efforts to bring as many people as possible to meet with Palestinian and Israeli peace-builders.  He often raised money for young and low-income activists to join the delegations he led.  Interfaith Peace-Builders has named our scholarship fund in his honor so that we can continue the important work that he pioneered.

Please consider honoring Scott's lifetime of work for peace and justice in Israel/Palestine by making a donation to the Scott Kennedy Memorial Scholarship Fund. Click here to read more.


Other Online Remembrances

Resource Center for Nonviolence

As We See It: Scott Kennedy Took a Stand - Santa Cruz Sentinel

Scott with Last Delegation