Barry Liben
Barry Liben Courtesy of the Liben family

Barry Liben died on January 2, 2020 in New York at the age of 67. He was a great man on so many levels. His loss is immeasurable. He was a pillar of so many important things.

A legend, he was the quintessential self-made American success story. For me, he was a close friend, the big brother I never had, a mentor, a role model, a business partner. Someone I admired and loved on so many levels. As he always told me, “take care of your family and friends. Be a great Betari Jew. Smile and laugh. The secret to a happy life.”

So much defined Barry Liben but more than anything else it was his family. His wife Sindy who he met in Camp Betar, his three children, Michael, Daniella and Rebecca, and his seven grandchildren. Barry’s family was simply his life. He couldn’t stop speaking about his kids and grandkids. Always every minute speaking to them and about them. Family was everything for him.

Barry grew up in Brooklyn, and dropped out of High School. The Zionist youth movement, Betar, founded by Ze’ev Jabotinsky changed – and in many ways defined – his life. Starting as a camper, he eventually became director of the organization, where for many, many years he educated, led, protested for Jewish rights, laughed and made life-long friends. He led the organization and through the years influenced thousands of people.

That movement and the values of Betar defined Barry’s life – about keeping ones word, about honor, being a strong Jew, standing up for Israel. All those things defined Barry Liben.

At the time, located in the Betar office was a small travel agency named Tzell Travel - which was short for "Etzel," the Hebrew acronym for Irgun Zva'i Leumi (IZL), the Jewish underground movement that fought to oust the British Mandatory authorities from pre-state Palestine which ran small tours to Israel. Eventually, Barry scrapped together money to buy the agency – which he eventually grew over many years of hard, hard work to a travel agency with sales over $800 Million dollars.

He was proud of what he built and really good at it. He worked so many hours for so many years – he redefined the travel industry with what he did. Everyone in the travel industry was on his speed-dial – and he wasn’t shy in telling everyone and anyone what he thought. He had such loyalty from his team, and clients and didn’t stop ever doing what was right for them.

Yet, Barry Liben was so much more than a hard-working self made entrepreneur. He was a deep patriot and lover of all things Israel related. He loved football – his New York Giants – and honesty, ethics and decency. If Barry gave you his word he meant it and he kept it. He wasn’t capable of anything else. He was the very definition of tachlis. Barry was devoted to helping so many people from so many walks of life. He was always making jokes and had a huge laugh. In recent years, Barry took a liking to the Hamptons –he liked it because his family surrounded him there and it was pretty and peaceful.

Barry wrote emails all in caps – and he loved his team in the Israel Football league. Barry loved his friends – he was a man of action, a tachlis person focused on accomplishing, and doing. He was so driven and focused. He was smart – street-smart – read people very well, made decisions quickly and loved with all his heart. Barry Liben loved to speak his mind. Barry was always larger than life.

Barry was a very close friend of mine for more than 20 years. He was the big brother I never had. We had so many discussions on so many things. So much I learned from the man and shared with the man. As one who was a leader of Betar many years after Barry, we shared so many values and ideals.

Barry understood deeply how to help Am Israel – he was always there on so many important issues. Just last month, I agreed to become Chairman of American Friends of Duvdevan and Barry was my first call to ask him to be on the Board with me. He said “Of course, these are Jewish heroes who protect Israel.”

This was only one of the many causes he cared deeply about throughout his life – from settlements to the National Stuttering Association, the Menachem Begin museum to Jewish media like the Nachum Siegel show and more. His office was always being used for different important philanthropic related issues. Barry cared about Israel and Jews with all his soul and being.

When I was thinking of starting a PR agency at the age of 28, I was nervous. I went to see Barry – who I had met through Betar and was a friend of my mom, Penny Waga, Z’L. A self-made mega-millionaire who emanated from the Betar movement in which I grew up, for me he was a role model – he instantly offered to invest in me; give me an office at Tzell Travel where I started 5WPR on the rooftop of his office. The first two years we worked out of his office – and he remained my partner for the first ten years of my business until I bought him out in 2013.

He was my confidant then – and until today – on life, business and more. I remember many meals with him - I remember discussions with him about people, politics and so much more. I remember him always discussing Jewish politics, the ethics (or lack thereof) of leaders (and Jewish leaders).

He was truly a very close friend whom I loved and respected with all my heart and being. Barry had tremendous intelligence, such self-confidence, intuition and damn hard work ethic. He didn’t know how to do things half-speed. He lived life hard and trusted those closest to him without question. He was a pillar of Jewish and Zionist pride. A true Betari and a great American Jew. The loss of Barry Liben is a loss so many of us will feel. I loved and idolized this great man. He was the very definition of tachlis, of action.

Barry was a great family man, a great Jew, a great businessman, a great Betari. He was always there for me and for so many others. Brother Barry – I miss you. Tel Chai. May his wife, children, and grandchildren be comforted among the mourners of Zion.

Ronn Torossian is President & CEO of "5W Public Relations"