The Gottesmans: A Billionaire Family That Supports Jewish Organizations

Yeshiva University (YU) in New York traces its roots to Yeshiva Eitz Chaim, an all-day boys school organized at Mariampol Synagogue in the late 1800s on the Lower East Side. The institution has grown to become the oldest and "most comprehensive educational institution under Jewish auspices in America." The 89-year-old billionaire David Gottesman and family are among YU's biggest patrons. Last decade, Gottesman and his wife Ruth gave a $25 million gift to the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University to establish the Ruth L. and David S. Gottesman Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine.

Gottesman was an early investor in Berkshire Hathaway and founded his own investment firm, First Manhattan Co. in 1964. His son Robert now runs the company. This family moves their charitable contributions through the Gottesman Fund, which held nearly $350 million in assets and gave away around $20 million in a recent fiscal year. That's a substantial stream of giving, especially for a funder that generally flies beneath the radar.

Besides Yeshiva University, the Gottesmans have supported many other Jewish organizations that work in the United States and Israel.

The family has funded Jewish schools like Abraham Joshua Heschel School, SAR Academy in Riverdale, New York, Golda Och Academy, Solomon Schechter School of Westchester, and Ramaz School in Manhattan, which recently received a grant of nearly $1 million. The Gottesmans are involved with PEF Israel Endowment Funds, an outfit founded in 1922 to enable the direct distribution of funds to selected and approved charitable organizations in Israel. The family, via their fund, directed some $14 million to PEF in the two most recent fiscal years available alone. 

The Gottesmans' daughter Alice has served on the board of Jewish Community Center (JCC) for some two decades and currently chairs the board of directors of JCC Manhattan, which has received steady support from the family. Other grantees include Birthright Israel; Beth Din of America, a "rabbinical court which serves affiliated and unaffiliated Jews"; Center for Initiatives in Jewish Education; Drisha Institute for Jewish Education; Foundation For Jewish Camp; Friends Of The Israel Defense Forces; and UJA-Federation of New York.

Apart from Jewish organizations, the family also supports colleges and universities like Barnard College and Teachers College. Ruth has a master's degree in developmental education and a Ed.D. in human cognition and learning, both from Teachers College. Ruth has funded a scholarship fund at Teachers College, and last decade, the couple funded the Gottesman Libraries at the school. Human services, the arts and health are other interests. For an overview of this funder's work, read our profile of David Gottesman linked below.

Related: David Gottesman