Belarussian Jews celebrate JDC ex-leader’s 100th birthday

Cnaan Liphshiz

VITEBSK, Belarus (JTA) –Russian-speaking Jews in Belarus celebrated  the 100th birthday of Ralph Goldman, former leader of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and a central figure in Israel’s establishment.

The birthday party for Goldman, who lives in Jerusalem, was held as part of the opening gala of the Belarus conference of Limmud FSU, a nonprofit responsible for annual Jewish learning conferences in 10 cities for Russian-speakers across the world.

Hundreds of Russian-speaking Jews attended the conference’s opening on Friday afternoo.

“It is a great honor for me, that my service, which has always been very gratifying but not always easy, is remembered in this way by Jews attending Limmud FSU, which is a big development in the region,” Goldman, JDC’s honorary executive vice president, told JTA Saturday from his Jerusalem home.

JDC, which was established the year Goldman was born, is among the donors to Limmud FSU, which was founded in 2006.

Born on Sept. 1, 1914, in the town of Lechovitz in what is now Ukraine, Goldman immigrated with his family to the United States at the age of 11. He studied history at Harvard University before moving temporarily to Israel, where in the late 1930s he participated in the establishment of Kibbutz Hanita in the Galilee.

Goldman, who after Israel’s establishment served as an envoy of the Jewish state to the United States, was a driving force in JDC’s activity behind the Iron Curtain after he joined that organization in 1969.

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In 1992, Goldman’s son, David ben Rephael, died in the terrorist bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Argentina.