Irwin Goldenberg, Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angelespast president and an active community leader, died on March 20. He was 85.
Goldenberg was born in Chisholm, Minn. — population 8,000,which included about 35 Jewish families. His father had moved there fromMinneapolis. Known as “Irky” to his friends, Goldenberg lost his father when hewas only 10 years old, but not before his father imparted Goldenberg and hisfour siblings with the importance of synagogue life and hachnasat orchim — theJewish tradition of welcoming guests into the home.
“Our doors were always open,” Goldenberg told Jay Schuster,The Federation’s senior assistant director of communications, in a 1997interview. “We always had people … They would just knock on the door andalways get a welcome and a hot meal.”
After receiving his education at the University ofMinnesota, Goldenberg moved his entire family to Los Angeles, where he and hisyounger brother, Joe, established a wholesale plywood lumber business, whichthe two owned and ran for 37 years.
Goldenberg’s long history of Jewish involvement in LosAngeles began in the mid-1940s, through his work as a counselor with YoungJudea and the Zionist Youth Movement. After becoming president of JewishVocational Service, Goldenberg became active in the United Jewish Fund (UJF).Â
He shot to the top of the UJF, where he became the head ofthe major gifts division and served twice as general chair of the entirecampaign. He subsequently served a term as Federation president. On thenational level, he sat on the boards of the Council of Jewish Federations,Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society and the American Jewish Joint DistributionCommittee.
Outside of the Federation fold, Goldenberg also presidedover the American Israel Chamber of Commerce, and he was national chair ofAmerican Friends of Ben Gurion University. Beyond the Jewish community, he waspresident of the Southern California Plywood Association and also served forfive years as a commissioner for the Los Angeles Building and SafetyCommission.
Goldenberg was very concerned about the future of givingwithin the Jewish community and educating the up-and-coming generations to thevalue and upkeepÂ of Jewish tradition. He believed that making an impact onJewish youth began at home.
“Young people have to actually see the people being helpedat our programs,” Goldenberg said. “Telling them isn’t enough.”
“Our future will be secure If we can effectively instill thefeelings my generation grew up with in the younger generation. Each of us’old-timers’ has a responsibility to see that happens.”
“Irky was a giant in that generation of lay leaders,” saidJewish Federation President John Fishel. “He was always available to help us inthinking through very important community issues.”
Those issues included the decision to move back to theFederation’s 6505 Wilshire Blvd. headquarters following the Northridgeearthquake; The Federation’s relationship with its parent organization, UnitedJewish Communities of North America (UJC); and Federation-supported UJCcampaigns Operation Exodus and Operation Solomon.
“He really believed in what we do,” Fishel said.
Goldenberg is survived by his wife, Shirley; children,Wendy, Robin Lee and Daniel; and grandchildren, Tamra, Toni, Noah and Daisy.