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Larry Phillips, American Jewish World Service Founder, Dies at 88

Larry Phillips, a philanthropist and businessman who helped found American Jewish World Service, has died. He was 88.

Phillips, whose family created the Phillips-Van Heusen fashion conglomerate, helped found AJWS in 1985 along with Larry Simon, now a prominent Brandeis University professor.

“We owe our existence today to their passion, compassion and dedication to applying Jewish values toward building a more just and equitable world,” AJWS president Ruth Messinger said.

Phillips wanted to create an aid organization with a specifically Jewish focus after feeling isolated as the only Jew on the board of another major aid group. He served as AJWS’s earliest financial investor and first board chair.

With Phillips’ seed money AJWS was able in its early years to fund organizations creating economic opportunities for the “untouchable” Dalit caste in India; respond to the 1986 volcano disaster in Colombia; and promote new technology and methods for safely storing grain that helped small-scale farmers worldwide save their crops to stave off hunger.

Throughout his life, Phillips remained a generous supporter of AJWS and served for many years on the AJWS board of trustees.

“There is so much more hunger and poverty in the world,” he said. “We haven’t scratched the surface, but we’ve had, I think, considerable success.”

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