At first thought, it’s difficult to imagine a world without Jerry Gottesman.
The vision and work of Mr. Gottesman, who passed away Sunday at age 87 in Israel with wife Paula of 55 years by his side, will continue to make the Jewish educational world grow stronger for generations to come.
Mr. Gottesman knew that middle-class Jewish families often struggled with day-school tuition. He and Paula were among the first philanthropists to see to it that tuition became less of a burden. It was called the “Base Grant” program and it was known throughout the country as the formula toward tuition affordability.
Mr. Gottesman then introduced to the Jewish education world the concept of endowments that proved so effective in secular private schools. The result is some $80 million in endowments for Jewish day schools and growing.
More recently, the middle-income affordability program in the MetroWest region demonstrated Mr. Gottesman’s unending outlook of taking responsibility and action, not waiting for solutions, but instead seeking them.
Even Mr. Gottesman’s common sense approach to bringing day-school officials of Orthodox, Conservative and non-denominational educational institutions together to share best practices is all a part of that vision. It also wasn’t just about traditional education; Mr. Gottesman’s approach included Jewish camps and even the needs of Jews with special needs.
Indeed, he was a successful businessman, and much more than a philanthropist. He was a great, great man who felt blessed to be part of the greater Jewish community—and gave back with conceptualization and commitment.
Mr. Gottesman knew that the future of a strong Jewish community would be seeded through the education of our children. He kept the future in reach for so many of our community members.
The Jewish community here in New Jersey, in Israel and across the world is hurting now at the loss of this giant. But Mr. Gottesman would want us to press on, and he paved the way for us to do so. His legacy will be honored by the countless numbers of children who attend Jewish day schools and camps and foster the continuity Mr. Gottesman envisioned.
Baruch Dayan HaEmet.