CRS Alumnus Strives to Make the World a Better Place
The Louis August Jonas Foundation’s mission is to develop in promising young people from around the world a lifelong commitment to compassionate and responsible leadership for the betterment of their communities and the world. We do this at Camp by fostering an appreciation of both diversity and our common humanity, expanding intellectual horizons and heightening artistic sensibilities. Our mission is woven into all activities which develop leadership abilities and self-reliance. Camp offers and demonstrates a philosophy of living to serve society through the pursuit of humanitarian goals.
LAJF and Camp Rising Sun want to highlight how Camp impacts the lives of our alumni. We are excited to feature our alum Justin (‘80, ‘81) from New York.
Justin (80’ 81’), a former camper and member of the LAJF board (1990-1997) is always seeking new ways to improve the lives of all people. As an influential political force in New York State, he is currently a Common Council Member in the City of White Plains and an attorney and partner at The Law Offices of Justin C. Brasch, a Downtown Manhattan firm specializing in Landlord Tenant Leasing and Criminal Law. In addition, Justin is Chairman of the Youth Bureau for the City of White Plains and Vice Chair of Security at the Young Israel.
His past roles have included: serving on the Budget Committee of Westchester County, serving on the White Plains Planning Board, serving as a Democratic District Leader in White Plains, and serving on the Executive Committee of the New York State Democratic Party. These are a few of the many influential roles that Justin has worked under.
Justin grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with his older brother and his father, a salesman, and his mother, a stay-at-home mom and part-time worker in Advertising. Justin’s leadership qualities had been visible from a young age as he participated in Model UN at Hunter College High School and became the founder of Williams College’s Young Democrats’ club. At 17, he began his political career as an intern for then Congressman Ted Weiss.
Years later, he currently resides in White Plains, NY with his wife and three children.
One of Justin’s greatest influences was his grandfather, whom he lived with after college. Justin described him as an Orthodox Jew and immigrant who was “liberal, progressive, and a big social justice person” who sought to help working people. Likewise, Justin continues his grandfather’s legacy as he strives to help people of all backgrounds.
Camp played a significant role in the path that Justin has chosen.
“Certainly camp was a big influence. It added to my sense that we have to pursue justice, help the world, and be involved to create understanding between different kinds of people- whether that’s in New York City,White Plains, in the international arena or in the United States of America.”
Justin described the different campers he met:
“There were guys from Kentucky- I had never met guys from Kentucky. There were actually guys who somewhat believed that the South was almost an independent place and had some allegiance to the confederacy. Which, as a New York Jewish kid, was completely alien! [laughs] I had never been exposed to people like that.”
Justin believes that meeting BFAs, Boys From Abroad (a term formerly used at Camp for Internationals), helped him absorb the CRS spirit: “The Spirit of Giving”. He believes this spirit is “To help others and make a difference in the world.”
Years later, Justin returned to Camp in the 1990s and gave a council talk about the importance of volunteerism and helping others “in a world where, of course, people are often very selfish and cynical”.
Making the World a Better Place
Justin proves to be an inspirational leader who has improved the lives of many.
“This is where I feel like I’m a real camp guy. Because I don’t just do my city council responsibilities, I’ll testify at the Westchester County Human Rights Commission to protect immigrants. I’ll testify at a rally to protect immigrants and their rights, and to unify families. I’ll go to rallies and speak about protecting the Mueller probe...work to increase the minimum wage, participate in activities at the local NAACP and advocate for LGBTQ+ rights. ...-anywhere where I can do a little bit to make the world a little bit better for all people”.
Justin also proudly voices the success of White Plains:
“We have an unbelievably low crime rate for a city of our size and we attribute that to nurturing and helping our youth and helping everybody!”
He makes it his duty to fight discrimination:
“In the last few months, we passed legislation to stop rent increases on disabled people and Senior citizens. We have the most aggressive, affordable housing program in Westchester and we just expanded it!”
Justin is especially driven to help people due to an eye-opening event as a college student:
“... I remember meeting one of the wealthier guys from Williams College on a Greek Island. I talked to him about helping and caring about the world. He said to me... ‘I don’t care about helping the world. I only care about my friends and taking care of my family first …’. I was devastated. I was 20 years old and I could not believe that somebody could have that attitude. I clearly remember that to this day. And of course, it motivates me to work harder to help people.”
Sustaining the CRS Spirit
With great success comes great obstacles:
“I was elected to the NYS Democratic Statetate Committee when I was about 27 years old. And I sat at my computer at work and I drafted a statement of principles for the New York State Democratic Party. We were gonna be, you know, for small business and for the rights- at the time, of gay and lesbians, and against discrimination. We were gonna protect the environment...So I drafted a very detailed statement of principles… And the leadership of the party and the Legislature struck it down and wouldn’t let it come to a vote… And that was the end of my statement of principles, that I put a lot of time and energy into…”.
Despite this defeat Justin’s younger self had experienced, his ambition to help others was not hindered.
Justin truly embodies the CRS “Spirit of Giving” as he also strives to improve the lives of the youth:
“I am the Chairman of the Youth Bureau for the City of White Plains. The Youth Bureau has 68 programs to help kids. You can learn everything from SAT prep and STEM Programs, to how to fly a plane, to boxing and basketball... And if you can’t afford any of these programs- they’re free. So it’s almost like a George E. Jonas Camp Rising Sun thing.”
Nearly 4 decades after leaving camp, Justin continues to wear the CRS spirit on his sleeves as he undoubtedly makes the world a better place. We couldn’t be prouder of all he has done and we are excited to see him continue improving the lives of all people.