Jona Goldrich: Philanthropist, Builder, Fighter

Jona Goldrich, a well-known supporter of Jewish institutions in the Los Angeles area, was a Holocaust survivor who fought in Israel’s War of Independence in 1948.

Goldrich was born Jona Goldreich in 1927 in Lvov, Poland, which is today part of Ukraine. When he was just 15 years-old, he and his brother Avram traveled across Europe to Israel to escape the Nazis in 1942.

He spent the next 11 years in Israel, as a soldier fighting for Israel’s independence and earning a degree in mechanical engineering from Israel’s Technion Institute of Technology.

In 1952, he traveled to the United States, making his way to the Los Angeles area with only $50 to his name. He changed his name to Goldrich, and started working as installing screens in Los Angeles. Just two years late he started his own company, Active Cleaning & Maintenance. Only three years later Goldrich developed his first property, and apartment building in North Hollywood.
Through the years Goldrich made his more in Southern California real estate.

His influence in Los Angeles was not confined merely to real estate. He was a large supporter of Jewish institutions, and still is through the Goldrich Family Foundation. The foundation is endowed with over $100 million, and supports a huge range of causes, from research hospitals and local schools to organizations in Israel.

One of Goldrich’s largest contributions was as the force behind the creation of LAMOTH, the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust in Pan Pacific Park.

“He wanted people to experience history in the present,” said Samara Hutman, executive director of LAMOTH. “[He wanted] people to remember the people who are no longer with us, and if we don’t tell their stories, no one will.”

Jona Goldrich passed away in 2016, leaving behind his wife of 56 years, two daughters, a brother in Israel, and grandchildren.

2017 Los Angeles County Bar Association: Jona Goldrich from Verdict Videos on Vimeo.

The Harold Alfond Foundation

sportsDuring his lifetime, Harold Alfond – as well as being a hugely successful businessman – set up the Harold Alfond Foundation as an avenue for his philanthropical giving. At the time of its establishment in Maine – in 1950, there were no other such private foundations.

Within the five decades of its establishment, the Harold Alfond Foundation donated around $100 million to various causes.  As of 2008 the value of its asset donation was $106 million.  This includes: enhancement of sports facilities (including: the Alfond Arena, Maine University’s Alfond Stadium, the Rollins College Harold and Ted Alfond Sports Center), academic institutions (contribution of $10 million to build the primary academic hall at the Saint Joseph’s College of Maine.

Harold Alfond was also instrumental – alone and through his foundation – in bolstering Readfield’s Kents Hill School.  The Alfond Athletics Center and the Alfond Athletic Fields were constructed in 2001 and 2008 respectively.  Three years later the Akin Learning Center was built with a donation of $2.3 million. And in 2015 $3.5 million was received to build a new dining hall.

There have been many huge ways Alfond donated in his lifetime and at the end of his life – having battled cancer for 17 years – he donated $7 million to Augusta’s MaineGeneral Medical (Cancer Care) Center.

Israel Rogosin: The Man and His Legacy

The Yeshiva in Volozhin, where Israel Rogosin’s father, Samuel, originated from.

Israel’s roots go back to the illustrious Volozhin Yeshiva in the Russian Empire of the 19th century. In 1890, the famed Netziv, Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin, sent Israel’s father, Samuel, on a fund-raising mission to the United States. Samuel decided to relocate to the US, and in 1895 opened a small textile mill in Brooklyn in 1895. One year later Samuel’s wife and four children joined him in the US, when Israel was nine years old. When Israel turned 16 years old his father handed over responsibility for the mill to him, while Samuel became the head of a yeshiva.

In 1912 the mill employed about 200 workers, but Israel ran the mill well and by 1920 he was running five mills with about 1000 employees between them. In 1921 Rogosin founded the Beaunit Corporation. In 1956, he opened a rayon yarn and tow factory called Rogosin Industries Ltd. The news of the success of the company spread to the newly established state of Israel. The then Finance Minister Pinchas Sapir invited Rogosin to move his industry to the Jewish state to help build the nascent economy and contribute to the development of the state as a whole.

Rogosin agreed, and in 1958 he moved his family and company to the newly founded city of Ashdod along the Mediterranean coast. The Israeli government gave Rogosin 1000 dunams to establish his factory on.

Five years later Rogosin sold his stake in the Beaunit Corp. By that time the company had about 10,000 workers on staff and was bringing in an annual revenue of about $150 million.

Rogosin gave $1 million to create a Center for Jewish Ethics in New York in 1966. He also donated $2.5 million to the Education Fund of the Jewish Agency to help build ten high schools in Israel. In honor of Israel Rogosin the main street running through Ashdod is named after him, as are two high schools there. In addition, a non-profit center for the treatment of and research into kidney disease in New York City is named the Rogosin Institute, also in his honor.

Cooperman and Columbia

givingApart from his generosity as a philanthropist of the Columbia Business School, together with his wife Toby Cooperman, Leon G. Cooperman is manager of the Leon and Toby Cooperman Foundation, which in 2014 pledged $25 million to the Saint Barnabas Medical Center enabling the construction of its  200,000 square-foot Cooperman Family Pavilion.

Being co-signatories of The Giving Pledge – “a commitment by the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to dedicate the majority of the wealth to giving back,” the Coopermans are extremely integral to the entire world of philanthropy, charity and volunteer work.

Vis-à-vis the Columbia Business School, Leon Cooperman has been exceedingly generous in his large monetary donations.  Herewith in chronological order are examples of his major investments in the academic institution:

  1. 1995: endowment of the Leon Cooperman Professorship of Finance and Economics
  2. 2000: establishment of the Leon Cooperman Scholarship (to support financial aid for need based students).
  3. 2007: establishment of the Cooperman Scholarship Challenge (assisting in the formation of more than 40 need-based scholarships).
  4. 2011: $25 million (enabling the school’s campus to expand).

Cooperman was also the first individual in America to endow the program that sends Jewish Americans aged 18-26 on a visit to Israel to bolster their Jewish identity – Birthright Israel.

Donald Soffer: Friend of Brandeis University

Brandeis University at Night. Photo courtesy of Leo Felici.

Donald Soffer was born in Duquesne, near Pittsburgh, in Pennsylvania, in 1930. In 1955, he graduated from Brandeis University, not far from Boston, with a BA in economics, on a football scholarship. He immediately returned to Pittsburgh and began to build shopping malls for Don Mark Realty. Pittsburgh’s first indoor mall was built in 1965 by Don Mark, called South Hills Village.

When Soffer’s father died at the age of 63 in 1972, Soffer took over the family interest in DonArt Partnership, which owned 785 acres of predominantly swampland in South Florida, purchased in 1967 for $6 million. In 1977 his partnership with Arlen Realty ended due to a dispute about quality and speed of construction. Soffer believed shoddy construction done too quickly would hurt the brand. Soffer’s share of the properties became Turnberry Associates.

In 1983 Arlen went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and Soffer purchased the last 68 acres of undeveloped land and turned into the now upscale Miami Aventura Mall. In 1988 Soffer sold his share in Turnberry Isle Resort to Rafael Hotels for $20 million. In the 1990s Soffer handed over responsibility for Turnberry to his son Jeffrey, who handled new condos; and Soffer’s daughter Jacquelyn “Jackie” Soffer was handed the reigns for leasing operations at the Aventura Mall.

The largest donation in the history of Brandeis University came from Donald Soffer, who gave the school $15 million in 2008.

Edmund Ansin: Miami, Boston and Beyond

Born in 1934 in Worcester, Massachusetts, during the Great Depression, Edmund Ansin was the son of Sidney and Sophie Ansin. Sidney, who was the son of a Jewish immigrant from the Ukraine, was the founder of Anwelt Shoe, a manufacturer of shoes. When young Edmund was seven years old Sidney moved the family to Florida, where he went on to invest in real estate and became well-off financially. Sidney and Sophie were founding members of Temple Beth Shalom in Miami Beach. Eventually Edmund was sent back to Massachusetts for prep-school, and went to Harvard for two years, then to the University of Pennsylvania, where he graduated with a BS in economics.

When Edmund’s father passed away in 1971 he became the president of the Sunbeam Television Corp, a holding company for Miami’s Channel 7 TV station, WSVN. The station began to affiliate with Fox Network, and used news broadcasts from the newly launched CNN satellite network. In contrast to the way most independent stations operated then, Ansin decided to focus his station on news coverage. And even the news coverage was unconventional, shying away from the stoic presentations of staid news anchors, Ansin’s news programs were fast-paced, crime-lead stories with breaking news coverage and good-looking anchors. Under Ansin’s direction WSVN news became the market leader, bringing in $96 million in revenues in 2011.

Ansin’s giving is legendary, becoming the only person to have been awarded the United Way’s Alexis de Tocqueville Award for outstanding philanthropy in three different cities. He gave $1 million to build a radio station at Emerson College and a technical communications building. Together with Edmund’s brother Ronald, they donated $2.6 million to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston and their Youth Service Providers Network.

Guerin Giving Generously

hospitalUS philanthropist and music theater producer Vera Guerin is no stranger to giving generously.  Over the years she has donated substantial amounts of money to various medical-based causes.  For example, in 2008 she gave $5 million for the research section of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’s Women’s Guild Lung Institute.  If that were not enough, just five years later, Guerin was in full force again, with her $10 million check at the hospital enabling it to open the Vera and Paul Guerin Family Congenital Heart Program.  As well, a further $10 million was given for the endowment of two academic chairs: one in pulmonary medicine and the other for pediatric neurosurgery.  The money was also used to support the hospital’s new outpatient services building.

In addition to her generous monetary assistance, Guerin is both Vice Chair and Chair-Elect of the Cedars-Sinai Board of Directors.  In the past she held a key role – President – at the Women’s Guild Lung Institute and trustee at the Harvard-Westlake School.

Advisory boards Guerin has served on include: Stephen S. Wise Temple; Skirball Culture Center.