Jeane Herskovits Gottesman
Jeane Herskovits Gottesman, a philanthropist noted for her spiritual devotion to her work, and a member of the national board of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, assumed a major leadership and fund-raising role as chair of the New York Youth Aliyah Committee in the 1930s. When the threat of Nazism to world Jewry, especially to children, was first recognized, Youth Aliyah, a rescue project, set itself the goal of saving Jewish children from Hitler and bringing them to Palestine. There, in youth villages, they would combine educational labor with the pioneering needs and ideals of the Jewish state. Publicity and information about the program needed to be disseminated, and large sums of money needed to be raised immediately. Working with Henrietta Szold, the founder and first president of Hadassah, Gottesman brought to bear her extensive volunteer experience in fund-raising and her sense of responsibility to the community and to Judaism.
Jeane Herskovits Gottesman was born in New York City, circa 1893, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Albert Herskovits. She married D. Samuel Gottesman, who was born in 1884 in Munkács, Hungary, and they had three daughters, Mrs. J. J. Altman, Mrs. Ira Wallach, and Joy Gottesman. She and her husband were part of a wealthy philanthropic extended family. Her father-in-law, Mendel Gottesman, and her brothers-in-law, David, Samuel, and Benjamin, had businesses in the pulp and paper industry and in investment banking. They each established philanthropic foundations to support Jewish education. The family was associated with the establishment and development of Yeshiva University—the major Orthodox Jewish institution of higher education in the United States—as well as several Talmud Torahs on the Lower East Side. In 1941, Gottesman and her husband established the D. S. and J. H. Gottesman Foundation to donate funds for Jewish education, Jewish studies, local welfare, and other causes.
Gottesman focused her attention on health and welfare work, especially for young people, raising money for organizations such as the Federation of Jewish Charities, the Henry Street Visiting Nurse Service, the Jewish Education Committee, Juvenile House, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Ivriah, Yeshiva College, the American Committee for Christian Refugees, Beth Israel Hospital, and the National Home for Jewish Children at Denver. Her work with Youth Aliyah resulted in thirty thousand Jewish children from Europe, Africa, and Asia reaching safety in Palestine before the establishment of the State of Israel.
Jeane Herskovits Gottesman died in New York City on July 28, 1942.
AJYB 45:386; EJ; Geller, L.D. The Archives of Youth Aliyah, 1933–1960. Part 1: The Years of the Holocaust and Ingathering (1983); Kol, Moshe. Youth Aliyah Jerusalem Federation Internationale des Communautes d’Enfants. Document no. 1a (1966); “Mrs. D.S. Gottesman, a Welfare Leader.” NYTimes, July 29, 1942, 17:4; Women of Valor: The Story of Hadassah, 1912–1987 (1987).