With the passing of philanthropist Richard Goldman, who died Nov. 29 in his San Francisco home at the age of 90, we mourn the loss of a giant.
His contributions cannot be calculated merely by tallying the dollars he granted through the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund. Bay Area arts and culture, the environment and the Jewish community are immeasurably better off because of him.
Obituaries in major news outlets have made much of the Goldman Environmental Prize, an award Goldman started with his late wife, Rhoda, 20 years ago to honor grassroots environmental activists around the world.
This prize is certainly one of Goldman’s greatest legacies, considering the Goldmans were acutely conscious of the environment long before the issue became au courant.
But there was much more to the man and his philanthropy. A native San Franciscan, he deeply loved the Bay Area and did his utmost to keep it the nation’s jewel. The San Francisco Symphony, Stern Grove, U.C. Berkeley and the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers are a few of the local institutions that benefited from his generosity.
He also held close to his heart the Jewish community here and in Israel. One would be hard pressed to find a Jewish agency or institution that Goldman did not help. Synagogues, Jewish community centers, federations, programs such as Birthright Israel — all had a staunch friend in Goldman.
Perusing the list of Goldman Fund grantees, we find other issues about which Goldman felt passionate, such as reproductive rights and fighting hunger. Simply put, the man cared deeply about the world, and he directed the resources toward bettering that world.
One can hardly ask more out of life.
For Goldman, however, there was more, most especially his family. Richard and Rhoda Goldman had four children, and all went into “the family business,” donating their time, money and energy to philanthropic causes, predominantly Jewish community work.
Following his example, all 11 Goldman grandchildren, too, have made tzedakah a core value. They have a Grandchildren’s Fund (established by Goldman) through which they already have given millions of dollars to charity.
As the Psalms instruct: “Teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” Richard Goldman made the most of his number, applying a great heart to countless good works.
We are all the better for it, and will be for years to come, as the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund continues its work. We bid farewell to Richard Goldman, of blessed memory.