An Appreciation of Richard Goldman

Richard Goldman, a founder with his wife of the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, died a few weeks ago. The Goldman family is extraordinarily generous; the New York Times obituary reports that the Fund has given away over $680 million. is one of the grateful recipients of his and the Goldman family’s generosity. In fact, when started operating as an independent non-profit in 2002, we had exactly two foundation backers – the Goldman Fund, and the Walter and Elise Haas Fund. So it isn’t an exaggeration to say that IFF wouldn’t even have gotten started if it weren’t for Richard Goldman.

Mr. Goldman is famous for starting the Goldman Environmental Prize, which has become the most prestigious award in that field. The first time I submitted a funding request to the Goldman Fund, I wanted it to look good, and I put it in a plastic binder with a clear plastic cover and plastic tabs; I will never forget being clearly told that that was not done, the Goldman Fund wanted no plastic or metal wasted in submissions it received.

My understanding is that the Goldman Fund has a policy of funding an organization for a number of years, then taking a break, then funding for another set of years, and usually stopping its funding at that point. That was IFF’s experience – except that when we had a strategic opportunity to expand by adding Karen Kushner and her resources and training capabilities to our offerings, it was once again Goldman (and Haas) that made it possible.

I never had the privilege of meeting Richard Goldman. From my personal experience I can say that he hired outstanding professionals to run his foundation, including Bob Gamble, Amy Lyons, and Debbie Findling. I can also say that he was a leader who was not hesitant to go where others had not. Engaging interfaith families in Jewish life and community has never been a popular funding area, and that was even more true back in 2002 when IFF was getting started. That apparently did not deter the Goldman Fund’s staff, or Mr. Goldman from ultimately approving our funding. For that, we are deeply appreciative.

This post originally appeared on and is reprinted with permission.