Ralph Goldman, JDC veteran, dies at 100

Between 1976 and 1988, Goldman twice served as the JDC’s chief executive, and is credited for reestablishing JDC operations in the Soviet Union during the late 1970s.

October 8, 2014 01:32
2 minute read.
Ralph Goldman

Ralph Goldman. (photo credit: WIKIMEDIA/JDCISRAEL)


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Ralph Goldman, the honorary executive vice president of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, died in Jerusalem on Tuesday.

He was 100 years old. Between 1976 and 1988, Goldman twice served as the JDC’s chief executive, and is credited for reestablishing JDC operations in the Soviet Union during the late 1970s.

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Born in Ukraine in 1914, he moved to the United States as a small child, settling with his parents in Boston. A Zionist activist from an early age, he studied in Mandatory Palestine in the late 1930s. During the Second World War, he served in the American army, assisting Jewish refugees in Germany. Following the war, Goldman served as an agent of the Hagana, procuring airplanes and ships for Jewish immigration from Europe and enlisting recruits for the pre-state defense force.

A close adviser of Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, Goldman became his personal representative in the nascent Jewish state’s consulate in New York, later heading a variety of Israeli initiatives in the US.

Goldman’s son, David Ben-Rafael, who followed in his father’s footsteps by serving as an Israeli diplomat, was killed in the 1992 bombing of the Israeli embassy in Argentina.

“A cornerstone of JDC’s global operations for more than four decades, Ralph was an iconic and transformative figure who embodied the notion that all ‘Jews are responsible for one another’ throughout his long and extraordinary life,” said JDC CEO Alan Gill and president Penny Blumenstein. “His passing leaves a tremendous void, but also a priceless legacy that will sustain JDC, Israel, and the Jewish world well into the future.”

“Ralph was a mentor to us and to countless others who relied on his sage advice, flawless wisdom, and deep and abiding love for Israel and the Jewish people. From his early dedication to Zionism to his work building the Jewish State with David Ben-Gurion… from his masterful guidance of JDC as it reentered the Soviet Union to the invaluable training he gave to premiere young Jewish leaders over two decades through the JDC Entwine Ralph I.

Goldman Fellowship program, Ralph infused us with spirit and purpose, and his accomplishments changed the Jewish world.”

Speaking at a gathering marking the JDC’s centennial earlier this year, former president Shimon Peres remarked that “They say a person has to decide ‘what to be’ and ‘what to do.’ What to be comes from nature. What to do comes from vision. And Ralph had a rare combination of the two.”

Goldman’s funeral is slated to be held at 10 a.m. on Wednesday at the Har Hamenuhot Cemetery in Jerusalem.

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