New Jersey’s oldest hospital is getting a new name.
Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston will be known as the Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center. That’s in response to a $100 million gift from philanthropists Leon and Toby Cooperman, the largest ever made to a New Jersey hospital.
“I am at the point in my life where I want my gifts to have real impact, and I could think of no better way to do that than to make this investment in healthcare in the community that has given so much to our family,” Leon Cooperman said in a statement. “The pandemic has shown us that heroes are working in our hospitals every day, and I’m honored to help support their work.”
The hospital is part of the RWJ Barnabas Health Network, New Jersey’s largest health network. Its roots go back to 1865, when a group of women from the Episcopal Diocese of Newark established the Hospital of Saint Barnabas in a private home, caring for a patient who was without family or friends. That patient, Eliza Titus, left her estate to enable the Ladies Society of Saint Barnabas to establish a hospital on McWhorter Street in Newark. In 1869 it relocated a few miles north to High Street, where the hospital steadily expanded and modernized until it relocated to Livingston in 1964.
Saint Barnabas, according to the New Testament’s Book of Acts, was a first century Cypriot Jew who joined the nascent Christian movement not long after the crucifixion of Jesus. Acts reports that his first name was Joseph; the name “Barnabas” may be a Greek corruption of the Aramaic “bar nechama,” meaning son of comfort. Barnabas was a companion of Saint Paul, and traveled with the early Christian leader to Jerusalem to argue against other Jewish followers of Jesus who insisted that their religion still required circumcision and other Jewish practices. Why the women of the Newark Diocese chose to work under the banner of that is unclear.
Leon Cooperman, 78, grew up in the South Bronx. After earning an MBA from Columbia University, he spent 25 years at Goldman Sachs, rising to general partner and chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs Asset Management. He retired in 1991 and started Omega Advisors, a New York-based hedge fund that amassed nearly $10 billion in assets.
Toby Cooperman worked as a special-education specialist at the Early Childhood Learning Center in Chatham. Her leadership in community organizations includes serving as a board member of the JCC MetroWest for more than 30 years and as an officer and board member of Jewish Services for the Developmentally Disabled and Jespy House. She also has been a board member of the Jewish Community Foundation of MetroWest.
The Coopermans, who divide their time between Boca Raton and Short Hills, have signed the Giving Pledge campaign, which Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates launched in 2010. It asks the nation’s wealthiest individuals and families to give at least half of their wealth to charity. As of last year, the campaign has attracted more than 200 signatories from 23 countries with an estimated $600 billion subscribed. The Coopermans also have joined the Jewish Future Pledge, co-founded by Mike Leven and Amy Holtz, in which funders pledge that half their gifts will go to Jewish causes.
“My family and I have made a decision to give away all of our wealth in our lifetime,” Mr. Cooperman recently told the New Jersey Jewish News. “I should say, more correctly, half of my wealth in my lifetime. The other half I’m giving to my children to form a foundation as my legacy to my kids.”
The Coopermans’ name-changing gift to RWJ Barnabas Health Network follows more than 100 gifts from the family to the medical center, including a $25 million gift in 2014. That was at the beginning of a hospital expansion campaign that led the hospital to name its new five-story medical building the Cooperman Family Pavilion.
“Hospitals like this one need and deserve the support of private citizens to ensure patients have access to excellent health care and the latest advancements in medical technology,” Mr. Cooperman said in the statement. “I encourage others to follow my lead if they are able to do so.”
The Coopermans also have donated to the Boca Raton Regional Hospital in Florida.
Also in Livingston, the family’s name has been added to the new center of the Jewish Services for the Developmentally Disabled after a $2 million gift. Birthright Israel benefitted from a $20 million bequest, while the state’s premier arts venue, New Jersey PAC in Newark, received $20 million. JCC MetroWest and Daughters of Israel, both in West Orange, were recipients of $6 million and $1 million respectively.
And in a philanthropic endeavor that reaches back to Newark, the Cooperman family has donated tens of millions of dollars to establish the Cooperman College Scholars program, which provides full scholarships and social support to poor students from Essex County.