NET WORTH: Unknown
SOURCE OF WEALTH: Garden Homes Development
JEWISH FUNDING AREAS: Education & Youth, Israel, Community, Religious, Holocaust Remembrance
OVERVIEW: Patriarch of the Wilf family, Joseph Wilf moves his philanthropy though several foundations that are steered by Wilf, his sons and other Wilf family members. Wilf is chairman of one of the largest entities, the Wilf Family Foundation, which supports a range of Jewish causes and has distributed more than $200 million to the Jewish community and Israel over the past five decades. Wilf and his late brother Harry were among the original founders of the American Society for Yad Vashem.
BACKGROUND: When World War II broke out, Joseph Wilf, his siblings Harry and Bella, together with their parents, were deported to a Siberian labor camp. Wilf immigrated to the United States in 1950. In 1954, Joseph Wilf and his late brother Harry established Garden Homes Inc., a real estate development company in New Jersey.
EDUCATION & YOUTH: Joseph Wilf and family via the Wilf Family Foundation have given Yeshiva University in New York millions of dollars. The university is home to the Wilf Campus. Last decade alone, the Wilf Family Foundation gave the institution at least $8 million. Wilf was once vice chairman of the board of trustees of Yeshiva University and together with Harry endowed a major need-based scholarship fund for students at Yeshiva College and Stern College for Women.
The Wilfs also have a strong connection to Golda Och Academy, home to the Wilf Lower School Campus. Other grantees have included Rabbinical College of America, Torah Academy of Minneapolis and Rutgers Hillel. Note that Wilf is a trustee of another Wilf charitable vehicle called the The Wilf Family Education Foundation. "Education" here doesn't just mean schools, though grantees have included Jewish Educational Center, a yeshiva school located in New Jersey. The Wilfs have also given particularly large sums to youth outfits like Birthright Israel.
COMMUNITY: Joseph Wilf is on the executive committee of American Society for Yad Vashem, which supports Yad Vashem - The World Holocaust Remembrance Center. Wilf's nephew Leonard chairs the organization and Wilf and his brother Harry helped found it. Overall, the Wilfs are strongly supportive of Holocaust remembrance. Wilf is a founder of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and Kean University Holocaust Resource Center. The Wilfs have also given support to LA Museum of the Holocaust.
Wilf once described his early exposure to antisemitism: "There were only two Jews in my class in high school. We were totally isolated from the rest of the students. We were not allowed to participate in sports, no one ever talked to us and the teachers were distant. It was as if there was an organized boycott against the Jews."
Community organizations the Wilfs have supported include Jewish Agency for Israel, which "connects the global Jewish family, brings Jews to Israel, and Israel to Jews, by providing meaningful Israel engagement and facilitating Aliyah"; Jewish Community Center; Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ; Jewish Museum; Sabes Jewish Community Center in Minneapolis; and United Jewish Appeal, the recipient of millions.
RELIGIOUS: The Wilfs have supported Congregation Bais Yisroel, an Orthodox synagogue in Minneapolis; Sutton Place Synagogue; and Park East Synagogue, among others.
LOOKING FORWARD: In his 90s, Joseph Wilf is still engaged in business and civic life, as he's been for decades. The Wilf Family Foundation alone held nearly $115 million in assets in a recent year. This is a wealthy family to continue to watch carefully as it moves into the next generation.
Joseph Wilf does not provide a clear avenue for getting in touch with his foundations but below are addresses:
820 Morris Tpke.
Short Hills, NJ 07078
200 Central Ave., Ste. 102
Mountainside, NJ 07092