My name is Naomi Schottenstein and I’m an interviewer for the Columbus
Jewish Historical Society. We’re located at 1175 College Avenue in Columbus, Ohio.
Today is March 23, 2005 and I’m interviewing Jackie Jacobs.
Interviewer: Jackie, I’m going to ask you your full English name. Let’s
just start with that.
Jacobs: Jackie Lee Jacobs.
Interviewer: And your Jewish name?
Jacobs: Yacov Areye Lev ben Binyamin ben Yaacov.
Interviewer: Very important-sounding name. Sounds almost like a title. But
that’s how Jewish names are. Do you have a nickname? How did you come to the
name Jackie? I mean it sounds almost like a nickname but…
Jacobs: Well my parents wanted a real American name and John was too Gentile
and Jacob would have been redundant, although it was my grandfather’s name.
They wanted a real American name. Jack was too informal and so there was no
other choice but calling me Jackie.
Interviewer: And you fit right into it. It’s funny now names do fit into
people so, that’s great. Your original family name, was it Jacobs?
Jacobs: Yes, the spelling was a little bit different but it was our family
Interviewer: Uh huh. Where did your family originate? Let’s say where did
Jacobs: I was born in Middletown, New York. My parents both came here after
the war from Holland.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Were they both born in Holland?
Jacobs: No, my father was born in Germany and he came as a refugee to Holland
after his Bar Mitzvah in the late 30s. And my mother was raised in
Holland although she was born in Berlin. She was brought to Berlin because at
the time, Weimar Germany, early 1920s, it was probably really the most open and
tolerant European community and even though things were very good for the family
in Holland, they thought that the honor of being born in Germany at that time
would be terrific for my mother’s future. How little did they know what would
happen. To this day, my mother denies that she was born in Germany.
Interviewer: So how did your parents meet? They were both in Holland?
Jacobs: Well my parents were both survivors of concentration camps.
Interviewer: Can you tell us a little bit about, let’s start with your dad’s
Jacobs: Sure, my dad was born in Marburg, Germany. His father and his father’s
father were cattle dealers in Hessen, Germany. That was not an uncommon
profession in rural Germany. They were Orthodox Jews and they were raised, my
father was raised there. He had a brother who was born about seven years after
he was born. Shortly after my father’s Bar Mitzvah, as conditions in
Germany became intolerable for Jews, they left for Holland.
Interviewer: Where in Holland did they settle?
Jacobs: A very, very small town in Holland called Appeldoorn, A-P-P-E-L-
D-O-O-R-N, I believe, a small farming community, where they continued to be
cattle dealers. My grandparents were arrested first after the German occupation
and they felt pretty much it was God’s will and they did not go underground.
But my father did go underground and he wasn’t captured until later in the,
sometime after the German occupation of Holland. And like his parents, he was
sent to the camp that most, that was the first stop for most Jews in Holland. It
was called Westerbork. My father’s father, Jacob Jacobs, had also gone to
Westerbork and from there I understand that my grandparents were both sent to
Theresienstadt outside of Prague which was a sort of privileged camp and it was
also the show camp that the Red Cross had visited. They were so-called
“privileged” because of the fact that my grandfather had fought with
distinction for Germany in World War II and had an Iron Cross.
Interviewer: World War II?
Jacobs: World War I, excuse me. He had received an Iron Cross in World War I.
And so he was deluded into thinking that there might be some sort of special
treatment for him. And of course that was just a stop-off point for Auschwitz.
Interviewer: Were they exterminated then?
Jacobs: Yes. My grandparents did not survive nor did my father’s little
brother, my uncle, Gert, G-E-R-T. My father did survive as a teen-ager. I
understand that he was in 13 different camps lasting over a period of four years
or so. I don’t know all the camps that he was in. After the war he returned to
the farm in Holland and had his mind set on going to the United States, which he
ultimately did. On Israel Independence Day, 1948, the few remaining Jews in
Holland got together to celebrate, at which time my father met my mother, who
was also a survivor. I believe they met in Amsterdam. My mother was a nursing
student at the time. It was quite a love story. My father proposed that night
Interviewer: As soon as he met her?
Jacobs: Yes, immediately hit it off and ’till his dying day in 1971 it was
a true love story. His last words to her were, “How can I ever leave
you?” And those were his last words…
Interviewer: Uh huh. So they were both in Holland at that time. Tell us your
mother’s and dad’s full name. Let’s start with that.
Jacobs: My father was Ben Jacobs and my mother is Jenny Dornbusch Jacobs.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Those names are very important to me too because my
parents were Ben and Jennie.
Jacobs: Oh I didn’t know that.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Yeah.
Jacobs: And Jenny is just a beautiful, beautiful name.
Interviewer: I love it too.
Jacobs: And my son Ben is named after my father.
Interviewer: Uh huh. What was your mother’s background before she met your
Jacobs: My mother grew up in Holland, right outside of The Hague in a sea
town called Scheveningen. I don’t know…
Interviewer: I’m not going to ask you to spell that. I feel sorry for the
Jacobs: I think Dutch is a horrible throat disease but it’s
S-C-H-E-V-E-N-I-N- G-E-N, Scheveningen. They grew up, she was raised outside of
The Hague. Her father, Leo Dornbusch, died when she was an infant, of a heart
attack in his early 30s, leaving her mother, Rosa Landesman Dornbusch to raise
her and her brother, who was a few years older. Rosa Dornbusch by all accounts,
people who knew her, who I met who remembered her, was a wonderful, wonderful
woman. And she started a small kosher poultry shop in Scheveningen, which she
ran. And my mother helped her as a teen-ager in the store until they both, the
store was taken from them by the Germans, and my mother went underground. Her
mother was also killed during the war. My mother and her brother survived.
Interviewer: I’m going to ask you to spell your mother’s maiden, last
Interviewer: Okay. So they both managed to maintain their Jewishness, in
terms of Kashruth and observance and so forth? They tried to continue
with a Jewish home even as young married people?
Jacobs: Yes, yes. They wanted to continue Jewish tradition and that was who
they were and part of their attraction with each other. Even in Salt Lake City,
where they first settled, my father, who always had dreams of being a
veterinarian, those dreams never materialized because he couldn’t continue his
schooling in Europe, became a farmer. But he and my mother got resettled in Salt
Lake City where my mother’s brother, who came first, had also started and, but
it was impossible to buy farm land in Utah and they went back to New York where
my father was first a hired hand on a farm. My parents saved money and
ultimately became dairy and beef farmers, and then hay dealers.
Interviewer: How long were they in Europe before they ultimately came to the
States after their marriage?
Jacobs: I think they came in 1948 or 1949.
Interviewer: So it was shortly after…
Jacobs: Shortly after they met, yeah.
Interviewer: And they went directly to Utah? That was their first stop? And
Jacobs: Right. They may have stopped in New York just to visit friends or
whatever, but that’s where they first… married couple.
Interviewer: But the reason for Utah was because of your mother’s brother?
Jacobs: Correct, correct.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Jacobs: And he had a kosher deli in Salt Lake City. Salt Lake City was very
eager to resettle Jews because it was a very small Jewish community. So they
wanted to nurture their community. I’m not sure many of them stayed.
Interviewer: How long were your folks there? Do you know?
Jacobs: I knew my sister was there in 1950 but they weren’t there very
Interviewer: Uh huh. And where were you born?
Jacobs: I was born in Middletown, New York.
Interviewer: Yeah. And tell us the date of your birth.
Jacobs: I was born in July, 1953. I had an older sister, two years older than
I. Ethel was born in Salt Lake City. And I have a younger brother. He’s a year
and a half younger than I. He was also born in Middletown.
Interviewer: Tell us about your brother’s and sister’s families.
Jacobs: My sister…
Interviewer: Where they are and their families.
Jacobs: My sister is a student personnel worker in Silver Spring, Maryland.
She’s married to a physicist who works for, originally worked for naval
intelligence in Silver Spring.
Interviewer: His name?
Jacobs: Ira Levine. And they have two children. One is in college, Rachel
Levine, and Daniel is a high school student. Their children and my children,
Ben and Ari, are roughly the same age.
Interviewer: Uh huh. That’s nice. They can keep in touch.
Jacobs: Correct. My brother is unmarried and single and lives in New York.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Okay. And so were you then raised in Middletown and
schooling? Tell us something about your schooling.
Jacobs: Yes, until I went to college, I spent my whole life in Middletown,
New York. My father was a hay dealer. Originally he started as a dairy farmer
and gradually, well he noticed that there was, he realized that there was a need
to the farmers who were not far from New York City where land was at a premium,
that during the winter months they would have to order hay and have it trucked
in from other places, sometimes as far away as Canada. And he was in the same
position. The delivery truck didn’t come, whoever was supposed to deliver the
hay didn’t arrive, so my father took orders from some other farmers and he
went and got it himself with a farm truck and that ultimately became his
business. He grew into quite a business. He was the largest hay dealer in New
York State and I was raised in that business. I worked very hard with my parents
in building their business.
Interviewer: Was your mother involved in the business too?
Jacobs: My mother is a registered nurse but she was 100% involved in the
business. She worked as hard as my father in the business. Originally when they
had cows, she would milk cows alongside my father and the hired men. When we had
beef cows, she continued working on the farm. When we had the hay business, she
worked as hard at the business as anybody else. And raising a family. And taking
care of the drivers and the hired men and being up at all hours of the night as
the hay trucks were coming in from Canada or from upstate New York. Worrying
throughout the night, hoping that there were no accidents or anything like that,
or that the drivers didn’t show up drunk. That wasn’t uncommon. It was a
Interviewer: Was she ever able to go into the nursing profession?
Jacobs: After my father died in 1971, my mother volunteered as a nurse for
many years in the Emergency Room at the Middletown Hospital. She put in full
hours there. It was a very important part of her life. And it helped her adjust
after my father died.
Interviewer: Sure. Is your mother still…
Jacobs: My mother is still alive.
Interviewer: Where is she living at?
Jacobs: She’s still in Middletown.
Interviewer: Oh. Yeah. Nice to be able to visit home when some of your family
is still there. That’s good. Do you have other relatives there?
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Jacobs: No other relatives there.
Interviewer: And where did you go to college then after high school?
Jacobs: I selected a college, during my father’s illness. At age 43 my
father discovered that he had leukemia, and so I wanted a place, and my parents
felt it would be best that I not stay at home so that I could kind of spread my
wings. But I wanted to be close enough to come home if there were an emergency
or if there was any need. The only affordable choices were state universities in
New York. Fortunately New York fortunately has a wonderful state university
system. My sister was at SUNY Stony Brook so that was out for me. I didn’t
want to go to the same school as my sister. And SUNY Buffalo was too far away.
SUNY Binghamton was a perfect choice because it wasn’t that far away from
home, only about 120 miles away, yet far enough so I could be independent. I
thought that it was a great choice. I loved it.
Interviewer: Uh huh. And is that where you graduated from?
Interviewer: What was your degree?
Jacobs: Social Science degree in Geography. I had no idea what I wanted to
be. My mother would have loved me to be a physician. I think I disappointed her
terribly in choosing not to continue being Pre-Med. But…
Interviewer: She’s probably proud of you now though.
Jacobs: I think she is. She’s fine with my choice. I found Geography very
interesting. It’s the queen of social sciences. It offers a disciplined way of
looking at how things work that I found helpful to me, particularly planning out
my career. That framework, for looking at the world served me well. It was a
great major. It so happened that when I graduated, I still didn’t have an idea
what I wanted to be. I looked in the want ads for planning positions. The first
opening I came across was in Binghamton. It was for the United Way. I went for
an interview and was hired right away as Assistant Director of Planning and
Allocations. I had no experience and had no orientation in it. I was fortunate
because it was a very well-run United Way. The director turned out to be a
wonderful mentor and really…
Interviewer: Who was the director at that time?
Jacobs: His name was F. Arthur Grambling and he became a very good friend.
For the first year there, I didn’t think he knew I existed. No matter how
early I came in, how hard I worked, or how much I tried to learn about the
operations of the non-profit world, Art was kind of tucked away in his office. I
really didn’t think he knew my name. I realized that getting to know my boss
wouldn’t hurt at all. I figured if he wasn’t going to change his schedule, I
ought to change mine. Rather than come in so early, I stayed later. He finally
noticed that I was there plugging away and took me under his wing. To this day
we’re still very good friends. He was a terrific mentor, being very
professional. He was a wise fellow and he was always very supportive of me and
Interviewer: What were the years of your employment?
Jacobs: I was there from 1979 to 1983. I was the first Jew they’d ever
hired there. I’m pretty sure I was the first Jew. When I went in for the
interviewer I said, “The only condition I must tell you about is that I’m
Jewish and there are certain Jewish holidays that I will not be able to work.
And,” I said, “I’m not loafing off or goofing off. I’ll make it
up. I’ll give up vacation days or whatever. But there are certain days of the
year that I can’t come in.” I don’t think Art had ever heard something
like that but he said, “Oh that’s terrific. You don’t have to take
vacation days for that.” He said, “You honor your holidays and,”
he said, “that will be just fine.” And there was never another word
said about that.
Interviewer: It was a comfortable situation then?
Jacobs: It was very comfortable and a terrific learning process for me. I
think there were 37 different United Way agencies located in Binghamton. We went
over their budgets and I went through the allocations process. We conducted
their capital campaigns. We had several agencies that were run by United Way,
some smaller agencies, and over time I became staff director of some of the
smaller agencies, working with their lay committees. It became an excellent
preparatory experience for my next job, not that I ever planned it. One day I
got a telephone call from a fellow named Bruce Becker, a Binghamton attorney
that I knew from services at the synagogue there. He said he’d like to get
together with me and I thought, “Oh it’s my time. They’ve discovered
me. They’re going to solicit me for the Federation.” I did some teaching
at the synagogue. I wasn’t a stranger there. But I figured it’s Federation
campaign time and they probably want to talk to me more about the campaign. But
to my surprise that’s not what they wanted to talk to me about. They were
looking for a Director of the Jewish Federation there, the Binghamton Jewish
community, the Broome County Jewish community. It’s about 3000 strong. They
asked if I would entertain taking that job. Of course I knew nothing about
running a Jewish Federation and I really didn’t think my fund raising skills
were terribly good at all. My Hebrew certainly wasn’t any good. I shared all
those concerns with them but they told me that my experience at the United Way
would serve me well. And I already knew quite a few Jewish people in the
community. They knew that I’d been an active student who was very involved
with the Jewish Fellowship on campus and that I organized a Kosher kitchen on
campus. I guess they had put together their information and they invited me to
apply for the job and I accepted it. Bid farewell to the United Way. They wished
me well and we stayed in contact and I became a Jewish Federation Director and
served as the Federation Director from 1983 to 1985. . . .
Interviewer: It was a great path for you wasn’t it?
Jacobs: It was terrific, not charted at all, but it just was beshert.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Jacobs: It worked out wonderfully. It was a great experience. It was a very
nice community. Broome County had four synagogues. The annual campaign was about
$400,000 with some terrific volunteers, struggling to maintain their identity in
upstate New York. It wasn’t a particularly Jewish area at all.
Interviewer: It’s kind of tucked away isn’t it?
Jacobs: That’s right. Tucked away between the two big cities, Syracuse and
Scranton. But it had a solid history and a very active commnunity.
Jacobs: Pennsylvania, yeah. And it was a great experience. I realized that
there was no long-term future in Binghamton and if I was going to stay in that
field, and I wanted to, I’d have to learn more about fund raising, profes-
sional fund raising, and one day I got a call from Stamford, Connecticut, saying
that they were looking for a Campaign and Endowment Director. I thought it was a
little early to be leaving Binghamton but again, it was all mapped out for me
without me knowing it.
Interviewer: So what was the year then?
Jacobs: That was 1985.
Interviewer: Uh huh. And you started?
Jacobs: In 1983. I had been Binghamton’s Director for two years.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Jacobs: Stamford was very appealing because it was a larger community and
closer to the New York City metropolitan area. And it had a fledgling endow-
ment. I noticed both at the United Way and the Binghamton Federation that
endowments are really remarkable. Ten percent of the United Way campaign was
generated from endowments. And I thought those were pretty easy gifts to raise.
People had enough foresight and planning to leave monies in perpetuity for the
benefit of United Way. Endowments are repeat gifts; they’ll always be there.
It’s a terrific memorial, a legacy to those donors. It also makes fund raising
a lot easier to be able to count on those reserves. In Stamford’s Jewish
Federation, there also was an endowment program. There were all kinds of
vehicles for leaving testamentary gifts that I wanted to learn about, such as
wills and codicils, insurance, “pooled income” funds and
charitable-remainder trusts. I really wanted to learn more about that. The
appeal about Stamford, Connecticut, was it was larger and wanted to build its
endowments and to give me an opportunity to learn as I did it. I also could
become a more experienced fund raiser for the annual campaign. It was a
community that had more capacity than Binghamton because it is near New York
City. So off I went to Stamford, Connecticut. And I also had, another thing that
I took along with me. I’d been introduced by some donors and friends in
Binghamton, to a donor’s niece, and we actually went on a blind. Their niece,
Cheryl Goodman, ultimately became my wife. We got married in Stamford. So I left
Binghamton as a non-experienced Jewish professional and as a man very much in
love. And that’s how we started in Stamford.
Interviewer: You had more responsibility?
Jacobs: Correct, correct. And we got married there, during my first year in
Stamford. Cheryl was a TV producer in Manhattan. And…
Interviewer: So she was already pretty established?
Jacobs: She was living in New York and she was established and it was very
Interviewer: What was the year of your marriage?
Jacobs: We got married in 1985. On our first date in Binghamton, I told her I
might be a little bit late because I had a meeting. The Binghamtonians were
pretty big on evening meetings and board meetings could last quite a long time.
So I excused myself a couple of times from the meeting and would make a call to
her aunt’s house and ask to speak to her or if she could be given a message.
In the end, I was so embarrassed. It was such a long meeting that I just left
many messages. I didn’t have the heart to tell Cheryl directly. I think I
showed up for the date around ll:00 p.m.. She actually was very perky and I
Interviewer: It was a good attempt, wasn’t it?
Jacobs:… said she could understand this lifestyle and not consider it
was an insult to her, that it was not insulting her in any way. Maybe there’s
a chance for us. I found her very attractive and she’s… gotten used to
Interviewer: That’s great. Well she started with an adjustment right from
Jacobs: Right. She went in with her eyes wide open.
Interviewer: Sure. Not a 9-to-5 job, was it?
Jacobs: I never made it that way.
Interviewer: Well let’s continue with your professional life and then we’re
going to back and fill in some gaps.
Jacobs: Sure. Professionally I was not especially happy in Stamford. There
was a lot to learn but there were some organizational issues that I wasn’t
crazy about. I knew within a very short period of time that Stamford wasn’t
the place for me. But before leaving Binghamton at the same time that Stamford
had called me, I had gotten a call from the UJA Federation in New York, the
country’s largest Federation, from an employee who knew about me because her
sister was in Binghamton, and… .
Interviewer: A relative of yours?
Jacobs: A relative of one of the donors in Binghamton.
Interviewer: Okay. Okay.
Jacobs: She worked at UJA Federation. I guess she had a head hunter sort of
position in house. When she first called me in Binghamton, I said I, you know,
“I can’t really entertain it. I’ve just accepted a position in
Stamford.” But after a short period in Stamford, I called her back to see
if there were still any possibilities. She wasn’t in so I left a message. And
she called back. The first thing she said was “your appointment is
scheduled for such-and-such a time tomorrow”. I said, “How did you
know that’s what I was calling about?” and she said, “Why else would
have you called me? I’ve never spoken to you before except for that one time.
It had to be a follow-up to what we discussed a few months ago.”
Interviewer: Pretty presumptuous but…
Jacobs: It was presumptuous and I had chutspa to call somebody who I
had turned down, you know, not so long before, and admitting that I wasn’t
happy with the position that I did accept. I went in for my interview, was
offered a job, and went off to New York, still living in Stamford, but accepted
the job. Bid farewell to Stamford professionally although we still lived there.
I became a commuter to UJA Federation in New York.
Interviewer: Now how long of a commute is that?
Jacobs: Any commute in New York is long. In Columbus, we’re very spoiled
because nothing takes longer than 20 minutes no matter where you are. In New
York, nothing takes less than 20 minutes. From Stamford, it was about an hour
commute either by train or by car. It was terrible sometimes; it could be up to
an hour and a half. But mostly it was at least an hour. But it worked out pretty
well because most people in New York are commuters. They had regional offices in
Westchester and various regional offices in Long Island. But the headquarters
was on 130 E. 59th Street and about 600 employees there. I was just one cog in a
very, very big machine there. It was a big fund raising factory. A very, very
exciting place to work and to learn.
Interviewer: It’s a huge force, isn’t it?
Jacobs: It was unbelievable and it was an enormous bureaucracy and there were
some great, great fund raisers there. Some of the stars of the charitable world
were involved in UJA Federation. It was a very exciting time because they had
just undergone a merger between the former Federation of Jewish Philanthropies
of New York and UJA of New York. Most Jewish federations throughout the country
had already gone through their merger of the overseas division and the local
division. New York was one of the last hold-outs, if not the last national
hold-out. So they were going through some great cultural change trying to
integrate the overseas fund raising and grants-making arms and the local New
York City fund raising and grants-making apparatus. UJA-Federation had two
directors, both carry-overs from the former two organizations that had merged.
One was from UJA of New York named Ernie Michel, a Holocaust survivor, who was a
giant in the fund raising world, a very compelling speaker and a terrific fund
raiser. Very bright man of course. And the other was Steve Solender, whose
father and grandfather were both notables in the Jewish communal world. Steve
and Ernie co-directed the merged entity, the UJA- Federation. Their offices were
side-by-side and they were trying to change the corporate culture and make it
into a unified whole during their tenure, the period that I came there. My first
week I had interviews with both of them. The decision had already been made to
hire me. But their perspectives were dramatically different. Ernie Michel told
me, “It’s very nice to meet you,” in his heavy accented English,
“It’s very nice to meet you. I’m glad you’re on board. I never want
to see you here again.” What he really meant was a fund raiser’s job is
not to sit in the office waiting for the phone to ring. You ought to be out
there pounding the pavement and getting to meet donors.
Jacobs: Steve Solender’s view was much different. He said, “I never
want to get another call from an endowment donor who’s not getting reports on
his or her endowment. We must honor donative intent and maximize the potential
of their funds. I want you to make sure that you always have at your disposal
the information needed to keep our donors happy on how their funds are being
used. So your job is to go to the various department heads and make sure that
you’re getting all the reports on how the monies are being used and you must
have that at your finger tips.”
Interviewer: Was this a fearful challenge or an exciting challenge at that
Jacobs: Oh I didn’t know what kind of challenge it was. All I knew is that
one boss said, “Get out of the building and raise money,” and the
other said, “Stay in the building so you have information at your finger
tips to keep our donors happy.” They were really two completely conflicting
Jacobs: So you can’t dance at two weddings at the same time and it seemed
like that was my charge. As it turns out I tried to do both, which was kind of
challenging. The most challenging part was, well, first let me say that although
I initially came as Assistant Director of Major Gifts on Long Island, I quickly
switched to the Endowment Department which is really where I wanted to be and
found my niche. They had a great director there named Neal Meyerberg and we
became fast friends. I was given the authority to collect all the endowment
information. At the time, the endowments were managed by the various
departments, that would benefit from the endowment income stream. The camping
division managed their own endowments. The day care division handled their
endowments. The various domestic affairs departments were in charge of their
endowments. They did their own tracking and monitoring. Nothing was centralized.
Investments and the management reporting functions were not coordinated, which
gave Steve Solender angina. Nobody knew who was in control or where the funds
were. So my authority was to centralize them and place them in the proper
repository, which he determined to be the planned giving and endowments
department, where I now worked. There was some resistance to that. There I was,
the new guy on the block, telling them to transfer their pishkas to my
department. Some of them had been doing a very good job. Others were threatened
by the fact that they weren’t doing a good job and they might be exposed. So I’m
not sure that I was very well received by those people…
Interviewer: Sounds like you had a lot of confidence though and you wanted to
accom- plish what had to be done.
Jacobs: Well I just had fear ’cause I wanted to keep my job.
Jacobs: Deep in the valleys of 130 E. 59th Street, was the Accounting
Department, rows and rows, in my mind’s eye, of accoutants poring over the
books in dark, dingy halls, and in one of the last rows was a fellow who one day
said, “I know what you’re looking for.” And I said, “What am I
looking for?” He said, “You want to know where all the endowments
are.” He said, “Well I’ve been here for years,” he said.
“I know where each and every single one is.” I said, “Well where
are they?” And he said, “In the bottom drawer of my desk.” He had
all of the records. It was amazing. Nobody even knew who this guy was or how he
managed to… .
Interviewer: And he was willing to open up to you?
Jacobs: I think I was the first person who spoke to him in the last 50 years.
It was just kind of comical. But he was very helpful because he had all the
answers for me. Once we got that in order and we transferred all the funds, I
could fund raise to keep Ernie Michel happy. It was a good experience in New
Interviewer: Sounds like a very educational time for you to…
Jacobs: Planned giving was just on the cutting edge, endowments and donor-
centered programs were just beginning to grow. Neal Meyerberg had a style that
was unique. He was a brilliant lawyer. He was well versed in all the vehicles
and tools. He had the authority to move things forward and he had a capable
staff. I was the youngest member of that staff. He was very supportive and
encouraged us to take risks and try new things. One of the things that he let me
try was a concept that now is probably not insightful, but at the time was. I
thought that if we’re trying to get people to give endowments, maybe the size
of their annual gift isn’t as important as the regularity of their annual
campaign gifts. I hypothesized that customer loyalty is really essential to
creating an endowment. Maybe we ought to target some of those donors, even if we
don’t know them personally. Their gifts may not be smashing, but maybe we
should cultivate them because of their long-term involvement as Federation
donors. So we targeted neighborhoods where there were larger concentrations of
loyal donors, regardless of the size of their gifts. So suddenly we were finding
endow- ment donors in Washington Heights, a little German-Jewish community, and
Bensonhurst, another older and aging Jewish community and we started sending out
mailers to them suggesting that they consider endowing their gifts. The response
was very, very favorable, much more than typical direct-response mailers.
Suddenly we were raising endowments with direct-response techniques and mailers,
which was unheard of at the time. Neal Meyerberg gave me the authority to try
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Jacobs: It worked and so we were learning as we were going about some new
techniques. We had fun.
Interviewer: Well that was an exciting experience then at that point, wasn’t
it? And you still lived, you still didn’t move into the city then?
Jacobs: No, I never did live in Manhattan. When my son Ben was born in 1987,
we wanted to purchase our own home. We found a home in central Jersey, Scotch
Plains, New Jersey. The commute from there was miserable. Cheryl was working in
Manhattan and I was working in Manhattan. Even by bus or train or by car, it was
about an hour and a half each way. We’d drop off the baby to a caretaker’s
house and pick up her husband and all three of us would commute into New York.
We’d leave home at 5:30 or 6:00 in the morning and then not being 9-to-5-er,
we’d leave Manhattan at 6:00 or 6:30 and pick up the baby at 7:30 or 8, always
hoping the baby would remember who we were when we came home. About three times
a week, my in-laws, who lived in Chestnut Ridge, New Jersey, would come by and
join us for supper so we’d have late supper a couple of times a week with my
in-laws and hope that the baby would remember us. Very often we’d drop the
baby off sleeping and we’d pick up the baby sleeping.
Interviewer: Well that was a challenging period for you as young parents too,
Jacobs: Oh it really was. We loved Scotch Plains. It was very nice but the
com- muting was difficult, as it is for everybody who works in New York, I’m
sure, unless you live in Manhattan.
Interviewer: It’s a way of life.
Jacobs: Correct. During the course of my four years at the UJA Federation, I’d
gotten a couple of calls from a fellow named Ben Mandelkorn in Columbus, Ohio,
and each time he was threatening that he was going to retire and was looking for
Interviewer: What was the year?
Jacobs: I was at the UJA Federation from 1986 to 1990, so during that time
frame he would call periodically.
Interviewer: Ben was a forceful person, strong personality.
Jacobs: At first Neal Meyerberg and I discussed his calls. We all knew Ben
from conferences and Ben was a force in the field. But we agreed that Ben was
never going to retire and entertaining his call would just be a waste of time.
His calls became somewhat of a nuisance. One day he called when my commute was
worse than ever and I said to myself, “Why not just humor this fellow and
check out why he’s draying me so much. At least he’ll stop
calling.” And I actually went to Columbus for an interview to see if he was
serious about retiring and to see what the community was like. The Columbus
community had a wonderful reputation. Always did. And Ben did too. But the
likelihood of his retirement was questionable. The attraction, if he was going
to retire, would be to run my own foundation program, which was appealing.
Although I was very happy in New York, Neal Meyerberg was certainly never going
to go anyplace and I never could replace him. And the other fellow who was in
the department, Bud Rosner, was also highly experienced, most capable. There
would be no need to replace him. So I would be Number 3 in the department for
the rest of my life if I stayed there, so I figured maybe it would be an
opportunity to grow in the Midwest and have some semblance of a normal family
life and also have the opportunity to really grow a program in a supportive
community. And that’s what Ben offered. He introduced me to Irving
Schottenstein on that first visit and we hit it off quite well . They
subsequently arranged for a round of interviews with a number of community
people, Jim Feibel, Don Garlikov, Karen Moss. There were a few others and we all
hit it off.
Interviewer: I’m going to take pause at this moment and just turn the tape
over. This is the end of Side A, Tape 1 and in just a moment we’ll continue.
Okay, now we’re on Side B of still Tape 1 and we’re talking about your
interviews in Columbus, Ohio. Let’s continue from that point.
Jacobs: Well I actually came out from New York for an interview after meeting
Irving Schottenstein and Ben Mandelkorn. Ben had set up interviews with Jim
Feibel and Don Garlikov, both of whom later would become Presidents of the
Foundation. I remember that I also met David Milenthal, Karen Moss. There
probably were others that I can’t think of right now. But they made the
decision and I made the decision that it might be a great opportunity for me.
They offered me a position, which Cheryl and I discussed. Without any
hesitation, we accepted. It so happened that Ben, being forceful as always,
pulled a little trick. I had said to Ben when he called for those interviews
that I really wasn’t looking for a job and I was very, very happy in New York.
And after having discussed on so many of his other calls with my boss, Neal
Meyerberg, that I wasn’t interested, I was just coming out as much to humor
him as much as anything else and I would appreciate if he would not tell Neal
that I was interviewing…
Interviewer: Well Neal knew that…
Jacobs: That Ben had called in the past, but this time I didn’t confide in
him. I just took off a day for the interview. And while I was on the plane
returning to New York, Ben called Neal to spill the beans before I did. He
couldn’t wait to tell Neal that I was Columbus-bound. That way, Ben knew that
I wouldn’t change my mind and back out of the deal. It was vintage Ben
Mandelkorn. He knew how to make things happen.
* * *
Transcribed by Honey Abramson