A Dear Friend to Jewish Camp

The Jewish Federation and Jewish Community Foundation of Greater MetroWest are deeply saddened by the loss of Jerry Gottesman, a respected business leader and pillar of our Jewish community.

Jerome (“Jerry”) W. Gottesman, 87, died peacefully while in Israel with his wife Paula and family by his side on Sunday, September 10, 2017. A towering figure in the New York and New Jersey real estate community, Jerry co-founded Edison Properties with his brother Harold. Jerry served as chairman of the company until his death.

Jerry, along with his wife Paula, are among the leading Jewish philanthropists of their generation, locally and nationally.

“The Gottesmans have literally reshaped our community in profound and lasting ways that impact thousands of Jewish children and their families today, particularly in the fields of Jewish day school education and Jewish overnight camp,” said Dov Ben-Shimon, Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ. “They have transformed lives, secured institutions, and changed the way we think about Jewish education, formal and informal. The impact of their philanthropy will be felt for generations to come.”

“We have lost a dear friend, and a giant in our community,” said Scott Krieger, President of the Greater MetroWest NJ Federation, which spans Essex, Morris, Sussex, Union and parts of Somerset counties in New Jersey. “Thinking through the lens of real estate, Jerry understood that building Jewish community meant deep investment today, but always with an eye to the future.”

Guided by a belief that a thriving Jewish future requires educated Jews, and that it is a communal responsibility to provide the means for quality Jewish education, the Gottesmans were among the first in the nation to develop a tuition grant program to help middle-income families afford Jewish day school education. This “Base Grant” program, started in the late 1990s, presaged and helped to shape a national movement to make Jewish education more affordable, particularly for families “squeezed in the middle”—those who do not qualify for scholarships, but do not earn enough to afford tuition.

One of Jerry’s passions in philanthropy was securing the future of vital Jewish organizations through endowment. A decade ago, the Gottesmans were among the first Jewish philanthropists in the nation to make major endowment gifts to Jewish schools, adapting the historical practice of private independent schools to the Jewish education world. They have led a campaign that has raised more than $80 million in endowment funds for Jewish day schools in their community of the Greater MetroWest NJ area. The program they created has been replicated in dozens of communities across the U.S. and Canada.

In 2007, the Gottesmans founded a giving society—The Herskowitz Society of Greater MetroWest NJ—which recognizes donors of $100,000 or more to Jewish day school endowments. Named in memory of Jerry’s mother and maternal grandparents, it was one of the first Jewish day school endowment societies in North America.

“Jerry understood that strong Jewish day schools are a foundation of a vibrant Jewish community, and that we need to secure these precious institutions with long-term investment,” said Steven D. Levy, Executive Board Member of Jewish Community Foundation of Greater MetroWest and Trustee of the Paula and Jerry Gottesman Family Foundation. “The Gottesmans were the first to step forward and do this in a major way in Greater MetroWest. More than 100 families have followed in our community, and many hundreds more have followed across the nation, helping to secure day schools in major Jewish communities from New York to Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago and more.”

“The Herskowitz Society will stand as a legacy of Jerry’s foresight and generosity for generations to come,” Levy said.

“Jerry’s leadership in Jewish education has created a lasting, profound impact for thousands of past, present, and future Jewish day school students,” said Paul Bernstein, Chief Executive Officer of Prizmah, the national organization for Jewish day schools. “Across North America, countless students, teachers, and families benefit because other philanthropists have followed Jerry and Paula’s model of success in creating high quality, more affordable, financially strong, and sustainable Jewish day schools.”

A centerpiece of their support for Jewish education has been building a thriving community-wide collaboration among local Jewish schools from diverse backgrounds—Orthodox, Conservative, and non-denominational. The schools meet regularly and share programming and best practices.

Driven with passion and a bold spirit to test new ideas on their home turf, the Gottesmans began both the middle income and the endowment programs at what was then the Hebrew Academy of Morris County in Randolph, NJ, where two of their daughters attended school.

That school now bears the name Gottesman RTW Academy, in recognition of a historic gift the family made in 2014 to build a new school building and expand the campus. The Gottesmans chose to honor the founding families—Rubenstein, Turner and Wertheimer, all close friends of theirs—with the “RTW” initials added to the school name.

“There is no question that the school owes its existence for the past 10 years and its sustainability for the next 50 years to Jerry and Paula,” said Levy, who is also a board member of the school and co-chair of the Gottesman RTW Academy building campaign.

“Without the Gottesmans there would be no Jewish day school in Morris County for the hundreds of Jewish students it has educated and will educate,” Levy added. “Jerry was always concerned about Jewish continuity, and was proud to talk about quality of education provided by the staff and faculty of the Gottesman RTW Academy. He was proud to have the school bear his name.”

The Gottesmans have also been innovative supporters in the field of Jewish camp, creating one of the first professional positions at a Jewish federation solely devoted to sending more children to Jewish overnight camp. They are the lead benefactors of the largest endowed community-based Jewish camp program in North America.

“Their innovative leadership with the Greater Metrowest Camp Enterprise and with NJY Camps stimulated replication by generous philanthropists across North America,” noted Jeremy Fingerman, CEO of Foundation for Jewish Camp. “Jerry loved receiving reports on the growth and momentum of the field of Jewish camp and encouraged us to keep innovating with new ways to promote even greater participation.”

In light of his long-term ties to the city of Newark—the home for Edison Properties since its founding—Jerry over the past year created the position of “Gottesman Fellow, Jewish Cultural and Educational Liaison to Newark” at the Greater MetroWest Federation. This staff position and extensive programming supports the rebuilding of ties between the Jewish community in largely suburban Greater MetroWest and Newark—the city of its roots.

The Gottesmans are also leading supporters of many innovative organizations in Israel, including the Yemin Orde, which provides educational communities for at-risk and immigrant Israeli youths; the Israel Center for Educational Innovation, an improvement program for Israeli elementary schools with large Ethiopian-Israeli populations; Leket Israel, that country’s largest food bank and rescue network; and Pardes, a Jerusalem-based learning center that trains Jewish educators worldwide.

Also in their home community, the Gottesmans are the lead benefactors of “Lifetown,” a new 50,000-square-foot center in Livingston, NJ, that will serve individuals with special needs from around New Jersey. Lifetown is sponsored by the Friendship Circle, which brings special needs children and teens together through extensive programs. The Gottesman also brought to their home community a program called PJ Library, which provides free Jewish books and music to families with young children. About 3,500 children across Greater MetroWest now receive these packets monthly.

The Gottesmans have endowed a position for a full-time Jewish student director at Vassar College, Paula’s alma mater. They are also leading benefactors of a research program at Johns Hopkins University into innovative approaches to treating neurofibromatosis.

The Gottesmans are trustees of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and major supporters of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

Jerry, along with his late brother Harold, established Edison Parking in Newark in 1956. Now known as Edison Properties, the diversified firm specializes in mini storage, parking, and real estate development. The company, still headquartered in Newark, has created a charitable trust which is used solely for Newark causes. Jerry served on the board of the Newark Museum.

Loving husband of Paula Rachlin Gottesman; devoted father of Sally Gottesman, Archie Gottesman DeBode, Jane Gottesman, and Abbie Gottesman Greenberg; father-in-law of Gary DeBode, Geoffrey Biddle, and Moshe Greenberg; grandfather of 17 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren, Jerry was born to the late Joseph Gottesman and Sadie Herskowitz in Newark, NJ. His older brother, Harold, and his younger sister, Arlene Reff, predeceased him. His younger brother A. Edward survives him.

Mr. Gottesman graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1952 and served in the U.S. Air Force for three years.

Scott Krieger
Jewish Federation
Robert G. Kuchner
Jewish Community Foundation
Dov Ben-Shimon
Executive Vice President/CEO,
Jewish Federation
Stanley Stone
Executive Director,
Jewish Community Foundation


This statement was originally sent out by the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ.