Howard Jonas: Humble Philanthropist

Howard Jonas is the founder, chairman and controlling shareholder of the telecommunications giant IDT plus he is among the world’s leading Jewish philanthropists.

Jonas, who runs his Forbes 1000 corporation while at the same time eschewing answering machines, computers and television, also lives relatively modestly.

He lives in the Bronx, New York neighborhood of Riverdale with his wife and nine children in a humble home there. He prefers to fly coach, he drives a Ford station wagon, when in need of furniture for his office he prefers to buy second hand, and he does not often purchase luxury items.

Jonas supports a huge range of Jewish causes, donating over 20 percent of his and his wife’s income. They prefer organizations dedicated to fighting poverty, as well as supporting political candidates, such as President George W. Bush and the Republican party.

Between their own family foundation and IDT’s the couple gives about $20 million each year, about 70 percent of that to Jewish institutions and causes. The top five beneficiaries of the Jonas giving machine are Yeshivat Chovevei Torah; SAR Academy High School in Riverdale; The Yatzkan Center on Long Island; Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital in New York; and Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.

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