Major philanthropist Alvin Goldfarb passes away


Alvin Goldfarb, a clothing executive whose philanthropic foundation helped Washington University build several facilities, and who was an active member of the Jewish community of St. Louis, died Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2008. at his home in Clayton. He was 91 years of age.

Mr. Goldfarb founded the Worth Stores Corp., a retailer of women’s apparel. He also established the Alvin Goldfarb Foundation, which gave major donations to various organizations in St. Louis, including the Jewish Federation of St. Louis, Washington University and its medical school.

Mr. Goldfarb was born in St. Louis and attended the Washington University School of Business. He left the school in 1937 to pursue a sales career, eventually founding Worth Stores in 1949. The business was sold in the late 1970s.

Mr. Goldfarb received an honorary doctorate in the humanities from Washington University in 1999. He was also a past director of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis.

Mr. Goldfarb married Jeanette Rudman of St. Louis in 1940. She died in 1992. The Hillel facility at Washington University is named the Alvin and Jeanette Goldfarb Building in tribute to their support. Mr. Goldfarb’s foundation also was insrumental in expanding the facilities of the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis, as well as the Goldfarb School of Nursing at Barnes-Jewish College.

Barry Rosenberg, executive vice president of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis, paid tribute to Mr. Goldfarb at last week’s annual meeting of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis.

Mr. Goldfarb was a member of Congregation Shaare Emeth. A private memorial service and funeral was held last week at the New Mount Sinai Cemetery, with Rabbi Jim Bennett of Congregation Shaare Emeth officiating. In his remarks, Rabbi Bennett said, “In the Book of Ecclesiastes, it is written that a good name is better than precious oil. Today we gather to give thanks, and say farewell, to a very special person, Alvin Goldfarb, who made a name for himself, by the way he treated and taught others, by the generous spirit by which he lived, by the friendships he cherished, and by the loving family that he built….He certainly seized each and every moment of his 91 years of life. And in the end, he was able to open his hand and let go. Like few among us, he managed both with dignity and strength.”

Rabbi Bennett continued, “I had the privilege of knowing Alvin somewhat, and as one of his rabbis, I am grateful for the brief moments I was blessed to share in his presence. He struck me as a gentle, wise and inspiring man, whose quiet goodness was a constant in his life and in this community.”

Rabbi Bennett read out a statement by Rabbi Jeffrey B. Stiffman, Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Shaare Emeth, who was out of the city and could not attend the service, who had known Mr. Goldfarb for over 40 years.

Rabbi Stiffman wrote: “I am very sorry not to be with you this morning. I am deeply honored to say a few words about my friend and mentor, Al Goldfarb. What I most admired about him was his essential humility. He was an extremely successful businessman, a wonderful family man, a distinguished and honored philanthropist — but he always remained the same.

“I remember many years ago, when a room was dedicated in his honor at the Washington University School of Business, how he was praised by the chancellor. Alvin actually blushed. When I told him how proud he must be to have the room named in his honor, he said that he was more than a little embarassed. He then said, ‘I was lucky in business. Now I am lucky enough to share this success with the university I love.’ He did this for so many worthy causes. I once joked with him that I saw his picture everywhere I went. He smiled and said, ‘You must go to the wrong places.’ But I did not. I was honored to be in the Goldfarb Hillel Building, to visit my wife’s office in Goldfarb Hall, to see the beauty in the Jeanette Goldfarb Greeenhouses.

“He was proud to be a member of Shaare Emeth. He quietly, generously supported our work, as he did for the work of so many people and organizations in the Jewish and general community….His memory will always be for a blessing. May he rest near his beloved in peace.”

Among the survivors are a daughter, Jane Goldberg of St. Louis; two sons, James and Robert Goldfarb of New York City; and five grandchildren.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Goldfarb School of Nursing, Barnes-Jewish College, 4483 Duncan Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63110; the George Warren School of Social Work, Washington University, Campus Box 1196, One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO 4899, or to a charity of the donor’s choice.