November 16, 2018

Jona Goldrich, philanthropist and real estate developer, 88

Jona Goldrich, a Los Angeles-based developer, museum pioneer, advocate, philanthropist and Holocaust survivor, died June 26. He was 88. It is with great sadness and respect, and an enormous sense of loss, that we honor his extraordinary life.

Goldrich had an immeasurable impact on the city of Los Angeles, and his passion, determination and commitment to creating a memorial and educational space in the heart of the city that would be free and open to all helped make possible the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust. The institutions, programs and lives rebuilt that are his legacy will continue to reach across the city and the country to future generations.

Goldrich was born Sept. 11, 1927 in Turka, Poland, to Sender and Elza Goldreich. Sender, a successful businessman in the lumber industry with a deep connection to his Jewish heritage, believed in the importance of education. Goldrich and his two brothers grew up speaking Polish, Hebrew and Yiddish, studying mathematics and science, and reading extensively.

When the Nazis occupied their region in 1941, Goldrich’s father made arrangements to smuggle the family to Hungary. Goldrich and his brother Avraham made the trip first and arrived in Hungary, but their older brother, Eizo, did not want to leave their parents. Sender, Elza and Eizo were caught and eventually died during the Holocaust.

In Hungary, Goldrich worked tirelessly to arrange forged papers so he and his younger brother could immigrate to Palestine, and they arrived there in 1943.

Over the next decade, Goldrich worked as an auto mechanic and taxi driver while he studied at Technion University in Haifa.

He immigrated to the United States, where he married his wife, Doretta, and raised two daughters, Melinda and Andrea.

He created the Goldrich Family Foundation, which furthers efforts to cure disease, supports local schools and international universities, promotes social justice, and supports Holocaust remembrance and awareness. He also was a founder and lifetime supporter of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust.

And so we allow ourselves to take some comfort in the thought that we might strive to carry forward his legacy and honor the hopes he expressed to me each and every time I saw him over his last years: “You have to keep teaching the young people.”

This week, in the quiet space of the outdoor Goldrich Family Foundation Children’s Memorial, just as the news of his death reached us, students from across Los Angeles were learning and reflecting and young men and women, grandchildren of survivors, were in dialogue with Holocaust survivors, learning how lives were rebuilt in Los Angeles, and how loss and unimaginable pain were met with hope and possibility and determination to create new lives and a better future.

“Another giant has left us,” said Lidia Budgor, 91, Goldrich’s fellow founding board member and an Auschwitz survivor.

Goldrich is survived by his wife of 56 years, Doretta; daughters Melinda and Andrea (Barry) Cayton; grandchildren Garrett, Lindsay and Derek; and brother Avraham.