Alex Joffe, 55, helped spearhead Palo Alto Jewish campus

Born in Russia and educated as an engineer at the Technion–Israel Institute of Technology, Alex Joffe took a leap of faith when he moved to Silicon Valley to start a company in 1993. But just in case things didn’t work out, he sold his car for $12,000 so he and his family would have money in the bank for return tickets to Israel.

Fortunately, things worked out well. MMC Networks, the network processor company Joffe founded, went public in 1997 before merging with another firm. In addition, Eyecon Technol-ogies, a home entertain-ment software development company where he served as chief technical officer, also thrived. In all, Joffe registered at least 25 U.S. patents, plus several others overseas.

Alex Joffe

Things also worked out for the Palo Alto Jewish community, where Joffe helped spearhead the creation of the 8.6-acre Taube Koret Campus for Jewish Life and served as president of the old Albert L. Schultz JCC.

Just as the vision for the new campus came to fruition — with the construction of the Oshman Family JCC, the Moldaw Family Residences and a preschool — Joffe and his wife, Ola, and daughter, Tali, relocated to Israel in 2007, returning for the 2009 grand opening and for family visits.

Joffe, 55, died on May 26 in Tel Aviv of cancer, diagnosed earlier this year. In addition to his wife and daughter, both of Tel Aviv, he is survived by sons Eitan (and spouse Danit Ariel) and Nitay, who live in the Palo Alto area.

“It was a blessing for me that I was in Israel and able to see him a few days before his passing, something I will treasure for the rest of my life,” said longtime friend Shelley Hébert, former executive director for development for the Taube Koret campus and a Jewish community activist. He died “knowing that his mission and what he set out to create here” was accomplished. “I can see it every day. Thousands of people may not know the name Alex Joffe, but those of us who worked with him will feel his presence for generations.”

“He was a steady hand in an uncertain time for the [JCC] and a very strong leader in terms of stepping up to make the new campus, with the JCC as its crown jewel, a reality,” said Samuel Salkin, executive director of Sinai Memorial Chapel and former CEO of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation.

In an unpublished 2004 interview with Hébert, Joffe related how he migrated from the tech community to the Jewish community: He was inspired by a 2002 Jewish National Fund conference in New York, where he heard Rabbi Irving “Yitz” Greenberg speak about personal missions. When he was asked to become president of the JCC, “it was for a reason,” he said — to bring together the Jewish, Russian, Israeli and American communities in Silicon Valley.

“He wanted to bring the Israeli community and the American Jewish community in Silicon Valley together.” Hébert said. “If you look at the programs, you will see his vision is being fulfilled. There are more Israelis coming to the JCC than anyone thought was possible.”

Janet Silver Ghent
Janet Silver Ghent

Janet Silver Ghent, a retired senior editor at J., is the author of the forthcoming book “Love Atop a Keyboard: A Memoir of Late-life Love” (Mascot Press). She lives in Palo Alto and can be reached at [email protected].