At a warm, heartfelt and elegant event, one of the Orthodox Union’s most enthusiastic and long-standing leaders, Gustave Jacobs of Forest Hills, NY, and his wife Henriette, were honored at the naming and dedication of the Henriette and Gustave Jacobs Chair in Kashrut Education in the OU Kosher Division. The cocktail reception and buffet dinner, attended by a large gathering of Jewish communal leaders, was held recently at OU headquarters in New York.
The chair will support the growing variety of education programs offered by the OU Kashrut Department in synagogues and schools across North America, specifically the newly announced “Coming to a Yeshiva Near You” initiative, in which Orthodox Union rabbis will visit Jewish schools across North America to shed light on the ever more complex world of kosher certification in light of new foods, ingredients, and machinery which are continually coming into existence.
At the celebratory event, a large plaque was dedicated to the couple as “a symbol” of their generosity and dedication to OU Kashrut.” Signed by OU President Stephen J. Savitsky, Executive Vice President Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, and Rabbi Menachem Genack, Chief Executive Officer of OU Kosher, it hangs in the lobby of OU headquarters.
Born in Cologne, Germany, from which he fled to France and then to Switzerland before coming to New York in 1946, Mr. Jacobs recalls that his family “survived by miracles only.” Once in New York, Mr. Jacobs dedicated himself to strengthening the Jewish community in his new home, participating in the founding of the Young Israel of the West Side synagogue only two weeks after arriving.
In 1965, living in Geneva for business, Mr. Jacobs met Rabbi S.R. Weiss, then the chief executive of the Orthodox Union, who urged him to become involved with the OU. He did so by representing the OU at meetings throughout Europe until he returned to the U.S. in 1969, at which time he became a member of the OU Board – a position he has held ever since. Mr. Jacobs has been honored by serving as gabbai – the official who assists in the synagogue service and stands alongside the Torah reader to correct him when necessary – at every OU Convention since then, a position he expects to perform once again this Thanksgiving at the OU biennial gathering in Jerusalem.
Mr. Jacobs’ life and career were the subject of an emotional video which was prepared for the event.
In his tribute, Mr. Savitsky – who is also chair of the OU Kashrut Commission -- cited Mr. Jacobs’ years of service to the OU, his involvement in its activities, and his philanthropic spirit. Rabbi Genack lauded Mr. Jacobs, terming him “the ultimate balabos” – that is, the ultimate lay leader.
Mr. Jacobs emphasized the importance of the OU’s kosher education programs, declaring that while it is easy to keep kosher today – just look for the OU symbol or another kosher certification – it is important nevertheless for those who keep kosher to understand the intricacies of Jewish law as the kosher marketplace burgeons. That is the purpose of the chair he endowed, Mr. Jacobs said, and that is why he and his wife were honored by the OU.