Today is the 107th birthday of Irving Kahn, JCF’s oldest living fund holder! JCF visited him last week in his Midtown office, where he still works at the investment firm he founded in 1978. Mr. Kahn is likely the oldest active investor; he began his long and storied career before the Great Depression. He is a disciple of the late Benjamin Graham, the father of value investing, and served as Graham’s teaching assistant at Columbia University Business School in the late 1920s. He comes from a family oft-studied for their longevity – his two sisters were both over 100 when they passed away in recent years, and he has a younger brother who is now 102 years old. Here, he speaks about the early days of JCF, the charities that have been important to him, and how he has managed to transmit a meaningful philanthropic legacy to his children and grandchildren.
JCF: Irving, you are one of JCF’s first fund holders. How did you come to get involved with Jewish Communal Fund?
Irving Kahn: Herb Singer and Richard Netter [the founders of JCF], they were good people with a good idea. There was no communal organization like Jewish Communal Fund at the time. By setting up JCF, they encouraged many more people to contribute to a fund and give to charity.
JCF: Can you share with us some of the charities you have been involved with and supportive of over the years?
IK: I created the Ruth Perl Kahn Fund at the Ackerman Institute for the Family [one of the premier institutions for family therapy] in memory of my late wife of more than 60 years, Ruth. She worked for many years as a volunteer at the Ackerman Institute. She had a Ph.D. in psychology and was an early associate of the late Dr. Ackerman. The fund supports research.
I was also the co-founder, along with the late Seymour Durst, of a charity called the New York City Job and Career Center [it later merged into another entity]. The goal was to raise consciousness among high school aged children about career opportunities, to expose them to the possibilities and let them ask questions. The organization existed for about 25 years.
JCF: Can you share some of the Jewish causes you have been involved with?
IK: I served on the board of the Jewish Foundation for the Education of Women for over 40 years, beginning in the 1950s. My son, Alan, is also a trustee emeritus of JFEW, having served on the board for 33 years. I also served on the board of the Jewish Guild for the Blind, now known as Jewish Guild Healthcare, for quite a few years. My son, Tom, has been active as a trustee there for over 30 years. The late Benjamin Graham, who has been President of the Guild in the early 50s, got me involved many years ago.
JCF: To what do you attribute your success in passing on your philanthropic legacy to your children and grandchildren?
IK: It was a family tradition for both my parents and their children [and with my own children] to encourage various funds that exist for worthy purposes, whether that meant helping poor people or those with serious diseases.
It is that thirst for learning and doing that many researchers on aging say are keys to living a long life.
If you would like to be featured in an upcoming “Meet a Fellow JCF Fund Holder” blog post, or you know someone who you think we should interview, please email Tamar at [email protected]