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Ralph I. Goldman, communal leader; 100

While remembering the past, it is essential to think about the future. The death of Ralph I. Goldman in Jerusalem on Oct. 7, at 100 years of age, made me, once again, understand how important it is to keep both in mind.
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October 23, 2014

While remembering the past, it is essential to think about the future. The death of Ralph I. Goldman in Jerusalem on Oct. 7, at 100 years of age, made me, once again, understand how important it is to keep both in mind. 

Ralph Goldman was a giant in the field of Jewish communal service. His name is synonymous with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), or “the Joint” as it was known to thousands of Jews who survived the Holocaust and to many others throughout the Jewish world. He had a tremendous impact on Jewish life in Central and Eastern European countries — Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova and other now-autonomous nations once part of the USSR — during the 20plus years since the fall of communism. 

It is hard to imagine another communal leader whose life encompassed so many seminal events of contemporary Jewish life. After working with displaced survivors in the aftermath of the Holocaust, Goldman became a senior aide and trusted adviser to David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister. In Israel, Goldman spearheaded the establishment of the community center movement, services to senior adults, mental health and gerontological services, and many other institutions of Israeli cultural, social and educational life. 

Ralph always looked forward. He recognized that the world at large and the Jewish world were always changing. He had both the vision and intellect to see that tomorrow’s Jewish leadership would need not only memory of the past but also practical skills to effectively solve new and complex problems, whether regarding social welfare, health or the revival of Jewish life. 

It is a tribute to Ralph and his vision that the JDC established the Ralph I. Goldman Fellowship in International Service, which selects the most outstanding of the new generation of Jewish communal leaders to develop their leadership skills by working around the world. 

Let us allow Ralph Goldman’s own words to speak for themselves: “There is a single Jewish world: intertwined and interconnected.” 

This is his legacy.

John Fishel is the former president of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. 

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