Weinberg, Harry

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WEINBERG, HARRY (1908–1990), U.S. philanthropist. Born in Sambur, Galicia, Weinberg immigrated to America at the age of four. He grew up in Baltimore in absolute poverty but, by the age of 40, he was a millionaire and, by the time he was 50, he was a billionaire. He lived in Hawaii for the last 20 years of his life where, for a time, he was the largest individual landowner in the state.

With all his money, Weinberg never indulged himself. In the 1950s, after purchasing the Scranton, Pennsylvania, bus lines, he lived in a rented, second-floor apartment, even though he could have bought the entire block the house stood on.

Weinberg was known for working seven days a week, and his main interest appeared to be in acquiring as much as he could. His chief hobby was charity. In the late 1930s, he pledged support from his then meager assets to enable many German Jews to reach safe haven in America. When his wealth had increased, he gave annual grants to yeshivot and Orthodox synagogues in Baltimore, even though he was not Orthodox. He donated $3 million to the Honolulu congregation for its building and an endowment fund. He aided the Associated Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore in many ways. He also gave funds to many non-Jewish institutions.

He established two foundations. The first, the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation established in 1959, had assets at his death of almost $1 billion and was the 11th largest private foundation in the U.S. By 2005 it was still one of the largest such institutions in the U.S., with assets of approximately $2 billion. The other foundation, the Harry Weinberg Foundation, was worth $90 million and was devoted solely to the benefit of the Associated Jewish Community Federation in Baltimore.

The larger foundation disburses $100 million annually. Its charter stipulates that 25% of its disbursements go to organizations that primarily benefit Jews and 25% to organizations that primarily benefit non-Jews. The remaining 50% goes to any groups – Jewish or non-Jewish – deemed worthy by the foundation's trustees. There are no geographical limitations on disbursements, and it was intended that both Israel's and Baltimore's homeless would benefit. It has expanded to include Hawaii, northeastern Pennsylvania, New York, and the former Soviet Union, providing grants for such needs as food, shelter, health, and socialization, and to enhance the individual's ability to meet those needs for himself.

[David Geffen /

Ruth Beloff (2nd ed.)]