November 19, 2018

Bram Goldsmith, businessman and philanthropist, 93

Prominent Los Angeles businessman and philanthropist Bram Goldsmith, who served as board chairman and CEO of City National Bank and City National Corp. for two decades, died on Sunday, Feb. 28, at his home in Beverly Hills. He was 93.

Goldsmith helmed the bank from 1975-1995 — he remained chairman of the corporation until 2013 — and was immediately succeeded by his son Russell. At the time of his death, Goldsmith was serving as chairman emeritus of City National Bank, which merged with Royal Bank of Canada in 2015 

“My father was a remarkable man, truly one of a kind,” Russell Goldsmith said in a statement. “He accomplished an enormous amount during his long and rewarding life. Among other things, he established the high standards, reputation, values and value proposition that continue to define City National today. We are all very proud of him, and he in turn was deeply proud of this company, what it does for its clients and the thousands of colleagues who made it what it is today.”

Goldsmith was generous with the fruits of his success. He and his wife, Elaine, were the lead contributors to the The Jewish Federation Goldsmith Center, the headquarters of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, which opened in 2000 and repaired damage to the building caused by the 1994 Northridge earthquake. He also donated $1 million toward the 2013 restoration of the sanctuary at Wilshire Boulevard Temple.

Born in Chicago in 1923, Goldsmith grew up in a middle-class Orthodox home. His father, Max, immigrated to the United States from Poland in 1916 and soon after brought Goldsmith’s mother, Bertha, and two older sisters to America.  

Goldsmith attended the University of Illinois and served in the U.S. Army during World War II. He was stationed in Burma for 18 months during the war and moved to Los Angeles afterward. 

His professional life began around the time he was 30. Goldsmith’s father-in-law, Ben Maltz, was among a group of Los Angeles businessmen who founded City National Bank in 1954, and Goldsmith became one of the first shareholders at the company. He worked in real estate before turning his attention to banking, according to City National Bank information. 

At the bank, he found professional success, growing its assets considerably and expanding it to cities outside of Los Angeles. This, in turn, provided him with resources to devote to the Jewish community and other philanthropic causes.

“There is no single individual in the history of the Jewish community in Los Angeles who has had a greater impact and leaves a greater legacy than Bram Goldsmith,” Federation President and CEO Jay Sanderson said during an interview on Monday.

Goldsmith served as Federation president in 1969 and ’70, when it was known as the Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles; as chairman of United Jewish Appeal from 1970-1974; and he was on the board of directors of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center from 1979-1999, eventually becoming a lifetime trustee. He also was a supporter of the National Conference for Christians and Jews, which is known today as the National Conference for Community and Justice. 

More recently, he helped fund the transformation of the post office in Beverly Hills into the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, which is the home of the Bram Goldsmith Theater, a 500-seat venue that has hosted the likes of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.

Sanderson said he relied on Goldsmith to provide him with an honest assessment of the state of Jewish life in Los Angeles.

“There was no one I leaned on more for sound advice than Bram, and, frankly, no one who wanted to give me his advice more than Bram. He challenged me, he supported me, and I already miss him,” Sanderson said. “He was one of the first people in this community who created the socially conscious business for not just the Jewish community but the community at large. That legacy is being carried forward by his son, Russell. He was a leader in the Jewish community at the Federation, at Cedars-Sinai, and a number of other organizations. His leadership in the Federation helped transform the Federation.” 

In addition, Goldsmith was instrumental in establishing the Los Angeles Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel and held leadership positions on the Institute’s national and international boards.

In lieu of flowers, the family has requested community members make donations to Federation, Cedars-Sinai or the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. A public memorial will take place March 4 at the Wallis. 

Goldsmith is survived by his wife, Elaine, his sons Russell and Bruce, and five grandchildren.