Calling it a major “investment” in its future, the Golda Och Academy announced a $17.2 million bequest from the estate of the late philanthropist Eric F. Ross.
Ross, who died in September 2010 at the age of 91, was a major supporter of the Conservative day school. Its upper school campus in West Orange is named in his honor in recognition of a donation he made that led to the opening of the campus in 1991.
In 2007, the school broke ground on a $4.5 million renovation funded largely by Ross.
Joe Bier, chair of the school’s board of trustees, said the bequest would initially be used to support the Lore Ross Neshama Program. Ross provided annual travel grants so that all students who wanted could participate in the program, in which seniors spend their second semester in Israel after a week in Eastern Europe. The program was named in honor of Ross’ wife, who died in 2009.
Bier said this latest gift will be used to continue this program; he has created a committee to make recommendations on other uses of the bequest.
“Just as Eric was one of our most generous supporters during his lifetime, he continues to support us now,” said GOA head of school Dr. Joyce Raynor in a statement.
She said Ross strongly believed in the impact and importance of Jewish day school education and saw Golda Och Academy as an essential part of ensuring Jewish continuity.
Ross, a Holocaust survivor from Germany, lived in South Orange. He made his fortune in vinyl and plastics. Among other causes, he and his wife were major supporters of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ, NJ Performing Arts Center in Newark, Saint Barnabas Medical Center, B’nai Abraham in Livingston, the American Associates of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, and the Berlin Jewish Museum.
The school, formerly the Solomon Schechter Day School of Essex and Union, has received a number of important donations in the past year. This past winter the school announced a $15 million challenge gift by the Jane and Daniel Och Family Foundation, made in honor of Daniel’s mother, Golda, for whom the school was renamed.
Shortly after that, it announced a $2 million capital gift from Jane and Mark Wilf and the Wilf family for renovation of the school’s lower school campus.
“These generous gifts demonstrate that Jewish philanthropists believe Golda Och Academy is not only a good investment, but a necessary one for our collective future,” said Bier. “They are willing to partner with us to ensure that our children get the grounding in academics, traditions, and values that will equip them for a lifetime of success.”
He emphasized, however, that with the need for tuition assistance “greater than ever,” the help of parents and the broader community is still needed.
In addition, the Ross bequest was not a contribution toward the Och Challenge, said Donna Oshri, director of marketing and communications, referring to the Och family’s challenge gift. “Eric Ross was particularly committed to Israel travel and student support; therefore he designated his bequest to those areas.”
In the press release issued by the school, Daniel Och said, “We are fortunate that Eric’s gift will help GOA continue to advance its mission by investing in academic excellence, while providing the necessary tuition subvention for our families, ensuring that future generations of students enjoy the best possible education.”