1896 – 1964
The Estelle R. Newman City Center, Jewish Guild for the Blind in New York City is named in recognition of the tireless efforts of Estelle Newman on behalf of services for the blind. In 1950, Newman was the principal founder of the women’s division of the Guild, and she remained an active member of its board until her death.
Under her leadership, the women’s division pioneered in gathering public support to enable the blind to integrate their lives more completely into the larger community. The women’s division also expanded efforts to develop more advanced methods of treating blindness. At the Guild’s Home for the Aged Blind in Yonkers, New York, Newman’s work was instrumental in establishing a program of medical, psychiatric, recreational, and physical rehabilitation for the elderly blind. In gratitude, the medical wing was named for her and her husband, Jerome, a financier.
Estelle Reiss Newman was born in New York City on November 24, 1896, to Rose Fassbinder and Elias Reiss. She had an older brother, Arthur, who died in a tragic accident as a young man. Her parents were of German and Austrian origin. From World War I to the 1930s, Elias Reiss was known as the “Dean of Worth Street” (Worth Street was a center for cotton goods and textiles). Estelle received religious schooling at a Reform Sunday school. After high school, she attended and graduated from Adelphi College. On January 12, 1920, Estelle Reiss married Jerome Newman, a pioneer in the securities industry.
In the 1930s, she lived on Long Island with her husband and two children—a son, Howard, and a daughter, Patricia. Alarmed by the rising danger of Nazism, she helped to found Youth Aliyah, an organization led by henrietta szold to save Jewish children from persecution and bring them shelter and education in Palestine. At that time, Newman also headed the South Shore organizations for the New York Federation of Jewish Philanthropies and the United Jewish Appeal.
When America entered World War II, Newman volunteered to work with the Office of Price Administration. She was awarded a certificate of merit for her efforts. Later, she served on the board of the New York Shakespeare Festival. Although Estelle Newman willingly gave her time and energy to a variety of philanthropic activities, most of her efforts were centered upon the Jewish community. She is particularly known for her creative endeavors for the blind.
Estelle Newman died on July 10, 1964, at her home on Fifth Avenue in New York.
AJYB 66 (1965): 580; “Mrs. Jerome A. Newman Dead: Benefactor of the Blind Was 65 [sic].” NYTimes (July 11, 1964), 25:2.