Jewish Journal

Jack Gindi, American Jewish University philanthropist, dies at 83

by Shoshana Lewin-Fischer

Posted on Aug. 5, 2007 at 8:00 pm

Jack Gindi, real estate developer, lawyer, philanthropist and Jewish community benefactor, died Saturday, Aug. 4, at 83, following a prolonged illness.

Known primarily for his philanthropy with American Jewish University (formerly the University of Judaism), where an auditorium bears his family name, Gindi gave to a variety of Jewish educational and service organizations around Southern California.

Gindi was born in Brooklyn's Syrian Jewish community in 1923. At the age of 12, he and his family moved to Detroit. After graduating from the University of Michigan, Gindi served more than three years in the U.S. Air Force. According to a 2004 Jewish Community Foundation profile, Gindi met Rachel Harary during one of many weekends spent at his uncle's home in Brooklyn.

Following his military service, Gindi entered University of Michigan's law school and completed his degree in 1948. Gindi and Harary married soon after and moved to Los Angeles, where he began a highly successful career in business and real estate.

Gindi became involved with the University of Judaism in 1963, spending more than 40 years with the institution, most of that time as a board member.

The university's Moses E. Gindi Auditorium is named for his father, and the Gindis sponsor the library's microfilm collection, which contains the manuscript collection of the Jewish Theological Seminary; Ha'aretz, Israel's major newspaper, from 1919 to 1970, and issues of the London Jewish Chronicle from 1841 to 1982.

"He had remarkable mind ... if there was a problem, he could always tell you [the answer]," said Dr. Robert Wexler, university president since 1992. "When you met Jack, you became part of a whole family."

Jack and Rachel Gindi credited their parents and their upbringing for inspiring their commitment to tzedakah (charity).

"The roots of our giving were really formulated in the Syrian community in Brooklyn, where everyone is raised to give charity," Rachel Gindi told the Jewish Community Foundation in 2004. "It wasn't big money that we learned to give; it was a part of what we had. Jack and I have tried to instill in our children the values that we learned from our parents at a young age."

The Gindis' philanthropy included the American Jewish University, Maimonides Academy (formerly Sephardic Hebrew Academy), YULA Girls High School, the Jewish Home for the Aging and Camp Ramah of California. Another organization, the Gimmel Foundation, provides enrichment programs for underprivileged children in several development towns in Israel.

In 1986, the Gindis and their children began working with the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles. In conjunction with staff from the Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles, they helped develop the At Risk Youth Prevention and Intervention Program, which identifies at-risk children, trains school administrators, decreases high-risk behaviors in children through support services and connects families and children with appropriate resources.

Despite the large amount of money the Gindis have donated over the years through the Jack E. and Rachel Gindi Foundation, they shunned the spotlight. The family granted an interview to Jewish Community Foundation to highlight the importance of intergenerational philanthropy.

"We learned that philanthropy is a part of life," son Joseph Gindi said, "that it's expected of us."

"They transmitted down to us that philanthropy is a wonderful thing to be involved in," daughter Betsy said. "It's not a burden."

That love of giving even extends to the Gindis' 19 grandchildren, who are involved in such organizations as Tomchei Shabbat, preparing and delivering food for Shabbat to families who would otherwise go without, and the Etta Israel Center, which works with developmentally challenged youth and their families.

"[Jack] was willing to listen and re-think the way he did things," Wexler said. "If there was something new, a new idea or way of doing things, he was interested."

Gindi is survived by his wife, Rachel "Rae," whom he had been married to for almost 60 years; children, Elie (Sharon), Joseph (Julia), Betsy (Simon) and Alan (Barbara); 19 grandchildren, and many friends.

Services were held on Sunday, Aug. 5 at Beth Jacob Congregation in Beverly Hills. Gindi was buried at Har HaMenuchot Cemetery in Jerusalem this week.
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