Top Five

Joseph Neubauer

By Jane Eisner

The Forward 50 is our annual look at the American Jews who made a difference in the past year. Each day, we will spotlight one of our Top 5 picks, leading up to Sunday night when the entire package — along with some very special surprises — will go live.

Joseph Neubauer is a data-driven kind of businessman. That’s how this immigrant son of Holocaust survivors parlayed a scholarship to business school into a lifetime of achievement in the corporate world, topped off by running one of the largest privately owned companies in America.

It was this belief — that, as he put it, “the best decisions are driven by data and facts” — that persuaded him to provide the key financial support for the ambitious survey of American Jews conducted by the Pew Research Center.

“For those of us who believe in Jewish continuity, who understand that scarce resources have to be deployed in ever more effective and intelligent ways, we hope that this study will provide a factual basis for decision-making,” Neubauer, 72, said on September 30, when the survey was released.

The survey became an instant topic of conversation in the Jewish world and beyond. It described a dramatic generational shift away from Jewish identity rooted in religion and traditional institutions, to one that’s more secular, fluid and, more broadly, American. The findings prompted countless stories and opinion pieces and are being debated in synagogues, federation offices, college Hillels and just about any place where Jews gather to argue about themselves and their future.

The impact of Neubauer’s philanthropy is in keeping with his character. He was born in Israel to parents who fled Nazi Germany, and then was sent to live with relatives near Boston when he was 14 years old. His academic experiences at Tufts University and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business led to his lifelong support of educational institutions, including Brandeis University and the Jewish Theological Seminary, where he and his wife, Jeanette Lerman-Neubauer, have provided rabbinic fellowships.

In Philadelphia he is best known for his role at Aramark — a private conglomerate that provides foodservice, facility management and clothing to businesses and institutions — and for his deep support of museums and other cultural institutions, especially the recently relocated and reopened Barnes Foundation. At Aramark he rose to become president and CEO, retiring in 2012; now he is chairman of the board. Through his Neubauer Family Foundation, he has also directed financial resources worldwide, including Jewish museums in Berlin and Warsaw, and in Israel, where he funds research fellowships for national security studies.

And he’s not finished. Neubauer has already agreed to fund another Pew survey, this one on Israeli Jews — another example of using facts to better understand the people and issues he values most.

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.