Seidman’s Slice of Life

hospitalFor Jane and Lee Seidman – one of Cleveland’s “most philanthropic couples” – there is pretty much one way to live life: “with a healthy dose of joy and a minimum of self-importance.”  Practicing what they preach they give of their time and considerable wealth; one example being the staggering $42 million they donated for the creation in 2011 of the University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center.

That’s not all.  In 2013 when a tornado demolished the gymnasium at Ursuline College near their home in Pepper Pike, they donated $1 million to supplement insurance needed.  Jane explained:

“From when we were children, our parents instilled in us the importance of giving back and advancing the mission of health care.  My mother was a hospital volunteer most of her life and Lee’s mother spent her evenings transcribing books into Braille while he did his homework. This gift is truly from our hearts. We really wanted to make an impact in our community and support UH’s outstanding cancer program as it opens this magnificent new cancer hospital.”


Herbert Herff: Tennessee’s Racing Philanthropist

Born in 1891, Herbert Herff was an active businessman and philanthropist in the US southern state of Tennessee. He was also a dedicated racehorse owner.

Herff raised the money needed to create the first blood bank in the southern United States in 1938, which was also the fourth such facility in the entire country. The same foundation that raised the money for the blood bank in 1938 also raised funds to study sickle cell anemia many

A print of the English racehorse “Matchem”

years later, which was also the first to do so.

In 1964 Herff and his wife Minnie gave money to create the Herff College of Engineering at the University of Memphis in Tennessee. At the time of his death most of his fortune was left in the hands of the State of Tennessee for the welfare of the University. To this very day, more than 50 years after his death, his funding is helping establish programming at the University of Memphis:

• Herbert Herff Professor of Biomedical Engineering
• Herbert Herff Chair of Excellence in Law – Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law
• Herbert Herff Presidential Law Scholarships
• Herbert Herff Registration Loan Program – established to provide short-term loan assistance to students who have no means of paying their registration fees.
• Herbert Herff Book Loan Program

An interesting part of Herff’s life was his association with Thoroughbred horseracing. His most famous horse was Tudor Era. This horse won the Long Island handicap, Man O’War Stakes, and the Longfellow Handicap. In 1964 Herff purchased Venezuela’s record-breaking thoroughbred, Tamao, for $250,000.

The Jews and Giving: It’s Like a Religion!

The Jewish people have historically and traditionally given a lot of money and time to worthy causes.  Indeed, it could be said “it’s like a religion.”  And that does go back to the sources actually. In an article written last year in Salon, the idea was explained as follows:

“the Jewish concepts of tzedakah (charitable giving) tzedek (justice) and chesed (mercy or kindness) instruct and compel all Jews to give to charity and treat people who are less fortunate with compassion.”

And it seems like the Jews are following this decree.  In large amounts.  Statistically the Jews give.  A lot.  When you look at the numbers you will find that in America only one out of 50 Americans is Jewish, the amount the Jewish people donates as a whole far supersedes that.

The author of the article – Hanna Shaul Bar Nissim – is a community philanthropy scholar and has been looking into the reasons why the Jewish people give so generously to charitable endeavors.  This phenomenon seems to be irrespective of their financial means. When looking at data gathered by Giving USA she found that:

“The average annual Jewish household donates $2,526 to charity yearly, far more than the $1,749 their Protestant counterparts give or the $1,142 for Catholics. [In addition, a greater number of Jews] give to charitable causes than households of other faiths.”

So when it comes to foundations, charitable donations, the development and organization of events that focus on giving-back, we will find a large number of Jewish people involved – and at the forefront – of these endeavors.


When Giving Is Your Life

Mikhail Fridman – a Russian-born billionaire – certainly puts his money where his mouth is.  apart from all the generosity that he has undertaken during his lifestyle, he plans to continue that after he dies as well.

Mikhail Fridman announced that he will leave his entire fortune to charity.  Even though he has four children, he still feels it’s better and to donate everything he has to philanthropic endeavors.

And that is a lot as well.  According to a Forbes estimation of wealth this month, Mikhail Fridman is worth $15 billion.  His most noteworthy business endeavors include the Alfa Group and LetterOne.

Nathan Straus: Businessman and Philanthropist Extraordinaire

Nathan Straus on March 7, 1922. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Born in the Kingdom of Bavaria, Nathan Strauss moved as a young child with his family to the southern US state of Georgia in 1954. Unfortunately, during the Civil War the family lost everything and moved to New York City. There Nathan’s father Lazarus started a business selling glassware and crockery.

After selling their wares to the relatively unknown department store R.H. Macy & Company, Nathan, and his two brothers Oscar and Isidor became partners in Macy’s in 1888 and then co-owners in 1896. In 1893 Nathan and Isadore bought Joseph Wechsler’s share of Abraham and Wechsler, a Brooklyn dry goods store which became Abraham & Straus.

Near the end of the 1880s Nathan became an active philanthropist and worked as a public servant. He was the Parks Commissioner in New York City from 1889 until 1893. He was the Commissioner of the Department of Health and the president of the Board of Health in 1898.

In 1892 Straus and his wife Lina supported the Nathan Straus Pasteurized Milk Laboratory. The goal was to provide pasteurized milk to children to help prevent tuberculosis and reduce infant mortality.

In 1893, during the economic panic, Straus’ milk stations were also used to sell coal at the extremely low price of 5 cents for 25 pounds. Those who could not even afford the 5 cents were given coal for free.

Straus created housing for 64,000 people charging 5 cents for a bed and breakfast. He also funded 50,000 meals for 1 cent each. He also gave away for no cost at all, thousands of turkeys anonymously. In response to seeing two employees at Abraham & Straus starving themselves to feed their families, Straus created what might be the first company subsidized cafeteria.

In 1904 Nathan and Lina visited Palestine. They were so moved by what they saw there that they became lifetime Zionists after their visit and helped the nascent settlement materially and morally. Among the many ways he helped the early Zionists by building soup kitchens, supporting workrooms to employ unemployed workers, created health stations which helped people with malaria and trachoma. He gave $250,000 to establish the Jerusalem Health Center and helped the Hebrew University.

The city of Netanya in Israel is named for him, as well as a main thoroughfare in Jerusalem which is called Straus Street.

This amazingly generous man said ten years before his death in 1931:

“I often think of the old saying, ‘The world is my country, to do good is my religion.’ … This has often been an inspiration to me. I might say, ‘Humanity is my kin, to save babies is my religion.’ It is a religion I hope will have thousands of followers.”

A Woman of Valor Who Can Find?

The Judaica and Oriental reading room at the National Library of Israel. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Henriette Marie Meyer was an extraordinary woman living in extraordinary times. Born in 1875 in San Francisco, California, her father was a well-known banker and philanthropist, Charles Meyer. Henriette was the first wife of the wealthy businessman Sir Mortimer Davis with whom she moved to Montreal. Her first child was born in 1901 and was named after her husband, Mortimer. She also adopted her own nephew a few years later.

In 1924 Henriette divorced her husband and with her generous settlement was able to continue to pursue her philanthropic interests. From Montreal she moved to France where she founded a resort for children with disabilities. The “spa” was called “Colonie de Vacance.” She was recognized by the French government for her kindness and generosity and received her adopted country’s Legion of Honor award. Later in life she helped refugees who were escaping from the Nazi regime.

When World War II began she was able to flee back to Montreal. From there she donated a Spitfire fighter plane to the British army and housed pilots for the RAF. For her assistance she received the Order of the British Empire recognition.

When the war ended Henriette started the “Lady Davis Fund.” With this money she was able to help bring Holocaust survivors to Canada to begin their lives again. Before she died in 1963 Henriette helped to build a number of schools in the newly established country of Israel.

The main building of the Israel National Library bears her name as the “Lady Davis Building.” The Technion in Haifa has the “Lady Davis Mechanical & Aeronautical Engineering Center. Lady Davis was truly a Jewish Woman of Valor.

Supporting the Citizens of Ukraine

ukraineAs well as being a highly successful businessman and oligarch, Rinat Akhmetov is well known for his extreme generosity toward those in need. He works hard for the welfare of Ukrainian citizens and as such, has developed, funded and advanced the work of a variety of charitable foundations for the cause.

Some examples of his work include:  the creation in 2005 of the Foundation for Development of Ukraine.  This seeks to completely “eliminate the roots of [Ukraine’s] social problems.” This organization has already spent hundreds of millions of dollars on its programs.

In 2008 he was ranked #2 in a list of top 10 businessmen who donated to charitable endeavors in 2008.  2009 was when he was ranked #1 businessman-philanthropist in Ukraine by national weekly Kontratky.  The following year his total charitable contributions amounted to UAH 155,65 million, making him No. 1 philanthropist in Ukraine.