Goldman Funds $100,000 gift helps Teddy Kollek mark his 90th

As Richard Goldman sits behind his desk in a quiet office overlooking the bustling streets of San Francisco's Financial District, he nonchalantly admits with a smile, "I spend all of my time giving my money away."

So why, asks the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund's co-founder, should the birthday of a friend, former Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek, be any different?

For Kollek's recent 90th birthday, Goldman honored his legacy with a check for $100,000. The gift was intended to go towards Israeli charitable organizations chosen by Kollek, who governed Israel's capital from 1965 to 1993.

"I just wanted to give him something to smile about on his birthday," said Goldman.

"Knowing he's dedicated his whole life to doing good for others in Israel, I thought being able to distribute money in places he hadn't had the chance, would really give him a lot of pleasure."

Kollek, who said in a press statement that the gift "made me happy," has chosen 10 organizations to receive a total of $90,000 in donations, ranging from $5,000 to $15,000. The final $10,000 was reserved by Kollek for use in case of an emergency.

The largest of the designations, $15,000, goes to Wellspring for Democratic Education, an organization of young people working to bring education on the value of democracy to poor Jerusalem neighborhoods.

Goldman first met Kollek more than 40 years ago while he was visiting Israel with his late wife, Rhoda, following the mayor's 1965 election.

The couple had previously been to Jerusalem in 1953, but at that time they found Israel's capital more like "an old city that had been somewhat neglected," with very few paved roads.

When they visited Jerusalem under Kollek, however, "we saw marked improvements in everything: the roads, the utilities, the cleanliness, the parks."

The improvements, said Goldman, continued throughout Kollek's tenure as mayor.

"He just made everything vibrant," said Goldman, who has visited Israel at least 35 times. "The Jerusalem of today is remarkable, in my point of view, all because it was done during his time as mayor."

Goldman was impressed with Kollek from the start: During their first meeting in the mid-1960s, the Goldmans joined him for a bus tour of Israel.

Not long into the trip, however, Kollek "got aggravated with the tour guide and went up to the front of the bus. He took the microphone and did the guide descriptions himself."

Goldman was quite amused.

"That was his nature and probably still is," he said. "He gets impatient when things aren't being done as effectively as he would like."

A friendship rapidly developed between the two men who shared an interest in city government and in the welfare of Israel.

"Like so many people who had befriended him, I was respectful of what he accomplished," said Goldman. "The chemistry between us was always strong. Over time he almost became like an extended member of the family, a relative."

A relative, he clarified, "that you like."

Goldman finally got a turn to show Kollek around his own city 20 years ago. Kollek usually came to San Francisco with a full agenda, but this time the two had the afternoon to themselves so they drove around the city in Goldman's car and took in the sites — including some unexpected ones.

"I was taking him to see places of interest and showing off the city, but he expressed particular interest in seeing a McDonald's," recalled Goldman. "He liked the concept; he saw in that something he was hoping he could introduce to Jerusalem."

The interest didn't stop at the door. The two, "of course," had to go in "and have one of those hamburgers."

No matter what they saw that day, Kollek would look for ways it might apply to improving or modernizing Jerusalem.

"His ultimate passion is Israel," said Goldman. "That's one of the reasons why I selected the $100,000 as a gift. I'm aware of his passion for anything to do with Israel and I thought it would help him to satisfy his passion."

So now that Goldman has Kollek's 90th figured out, what will he give his friend next May 27, on his 91st?

"I hadn't thought about," said Goldman, laughing, "but on his 100th I'm sure we'll give him something very important."

As for the current donation, some $10,000 will go to The Tisch Family Zoological Gardens in Jerusalem, where children of all backgrounds come to enjoy the animals. The donation will fund a program for special-needs children.

Kollek will also give $10,000 each to Sovulant, a group that strives to instill the value of tolerance into Israel's civil discourse, and the Community Development Project of Lev Ha'Ir Community Council, a neighborhood association around the Mahane Yehuda market.

Additional $10,000 donations are earmarked for The Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies; Chalon Association, a youth education program; and Huka LeIsrael.

Donations of $5,000 go to the En Karem Music Center, Dental Volunteers for Israel and the Association of Immigrants from Hungarian-Speaking Countries to Israel.

Goldman, whose fund often makes donations to Israeli organizations, was pleased with Kollek's choices. "He's much better-equipped than I to determine where it should go. I know his outlook is very impressive and as mayor he served the whole of the city, not just the Jewish population."