Lawrence, NY – Prominent Orthodox Philanthropist Dies At 84

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    New York – Well known philanthropist Zev Wolfson, whose generous support of countless Torah institutions worldwide was legendary, passed away today at age 84 in New York.

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    Born in Vilna, Wolfson came to America at age seventeen with his mother and his brother and using his keen sense of business, he went to work, enabling his brother to go to yeshiva.

    Ultimately he used his acumen in both real estate and investments to build an extremely successful business and over the years, the Wolfson Foundation has supported countless yeshivos, kollelim and other Torah institutions, with many catering specifically to secular Jews in an effort to bring them closer to Yiddishkeit. Despite his unparalleled acts of tzedaka and chesed, Wolfson, a Lawrence resident, preferred to keep a low profile, never calling attention to himself in any way and pictures of him remain few and far between.

    Wolfson had many connections in both the business and political worlds and according to Israeli news site Haaretz, Wolfson’s warm rapport with many senior members of Congress was particularly beneficial to the State of Israel in the seventies as American financial aid was a welcome relief during a difficult economic climate.

    A major contributor to the democratic party, he used his connections in the House of Representative for educational projects that benefitted Orthodox schools in America and Europe, many of which opened their doors to refugees from other countries. Wolfson was known to spend significant amounts of time in Washington, lobbying politicians to pass legislation that would benefit the State of Israel and one treasury official recalled, “he never looked for publicity for his efforts or for any benefit for himself. Everything he did was for the sake of philanthropy and to prevent the assimilation of Jews.”

    Another Israeli treasury official remembered a visit to the office building owned by Wolfson on State Street in lower Manhattan.

    “He loved to invite people to his offices on the 50th floor. From the outside all was shiny and impressive but on the inside he was insistent that all was modest and low key. This made a tremendous impression and opened up the heart.

    He was a warm Jew who would often tell people about his own grandfather, a millionaire who didn’t need to work a day in his life but would run around every day like a young man, spending much of his life in the glamour of Manhattan but conducting himself by the values he learned back in Galicia. He would sit in his magnificent office and eat a boxed salad that he bought on the street. In Israel he would hitchhike from his hotel to the Knesset and he would joke about how he didn’t have money. He was an exceptional person who left an impression on everyone who met him.”

    Wolfson was known for his close relationship with many prominent rabbonim and his wife Nechama tblc’t, who founded Shalom Task Force twenty years ago, is well known for her efforts to combat domestic violence within the Jewish community.

    The levaya will take place tomorrow morning at 10 AM at Yeshiva Shor Yoshuv, 1 Cedarlawn Avenue in Lawrence.


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