Remembering vic gelb

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With profound sadness and a heavy heart we regret to report the death of vic gelb (z"l), a Federation Trustee for Life.

vic was a leader of some of our Jewish community’s most important institutions. He chaired our annual campaign in 1978 and 1979. A lover of Israel, he was a leader at the meetings of the Jewish Agency. vic would see a child, a person in need, and extend a hand to lift them up.

“vic gelb was proof that a good man can have it all. He was a devoted husband, a loving father and grandfather, an accomplished international businessman, and a community leader. When vic saw a need to help, he jumped in and asked others to join him in making the world a better place. Being his friend could be costly, but you became a better mensch,” said Stephen H. Hoffman, President

Our thoughts are with Joan and the entire Gelb family. May vic’s memory be for a blessing.

Please read the Cleveland Jewish News article, reprinted with permission. Text provided below:

victor "vic" gelb: OCT. 15, 1926 – MAY 21, 2018

by Ed Carroll, Staff Reporter

victor "vic" gelb, a prominent Cleveland-area businessman who was known for his philanthropy and a former board chair of the Cleveland Jewish Publication Company, died May 21. He was 91.

Barry Chesler, board chair of the CJPC, knew gelb, a Bainbridge Township resident, for more than 20 years, first meeting him at Park Synagogue. Chesler said gelb was “an exceptional, friendly person.”

“(He) was very generous,” Chesler said of gelb’s philanthropic reputation. “He was always accessible, very friendly. He was a pleasure to be with him and talk to him.”

gelb’s daughter, Leslie Gelb, said her father was “a leader and a humanitarian.”

“He was an exceptional man,” Leslie Gelb said. “A man who got involved in the issues he cared about – children’s issues, Israel and civic-minded organizations. A truly genuine, exceptional human being who gave and kept giving. And in the end, you get what you give. He got a lot back. A lot of love for this community”

Joel Fox, chief development officer of the Menorah Park Foundation, worked with gelb as part of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland’s annual Campaign for Jewish Needs in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Fox said even though gelb already had served as general chairman of the campaign, he was still “extremely involved.” Fox also worked with gelb during the creation of the Mount Sinai Hospital Foundation.

“vic was a very important mentor to me,” Fox said. “I learned a lot about what I’m going to call ‘gentleman’s fundraising’ with victor. He had a soft and well-reasoned approach, but he was assertive, he did what it took to get that gift. He stayed with a prospect, followed up, made a solid case for the needs of the community and raised a lot of money that way. He was just regarded in the community as such a fine, dignified gentleman, always with a smile and friendly approach.”

Fox said he’ll remember gelb as a “great teacher and mentor.”

“(He taught) me how to build relationships that then allowed us to get a lot of great work done in the community,” Fox said.

Mitchell Balk, president of the Mount Sinai Health Care Foundation, got to know gelb during gelb’s tenure as board chair of Mount Sinai Medical Center. Balk recalled that after the decision was made to sell the operating assets of the Mount Sinai Health Care System, gelb took on the difficult task of explaining the decision to the community.

“vic was the great communicator,” Balk said. “He was perfectly cast for this role. I will remember the fact that he was among the greatest sloganeers and communicators of all time. Everyone wanted him in front of the microphone and he did what he did in spite of the fact that he had the most beautiful home life he could ever want. He was driven to help others and he cared (about others).”

gelb was president of Victor Gelb Inc. since 1981. Previously, he was executive vice president of Ohio Advertising Agency; CEO of Woodhill Permatex Corp., president and CEO of Cole Consumer Products; vice chairman of Cook-United; and chairman of Capital American Finance Corp.

He graduated from Adelbert College in 1951 with a degree in marketing.

gelb was the 1997 co-recipient of the Federation’s Charles Eisenman Award, its highest civic honor, along with Peter Rzepka. He also received the Newton D. Baker Distinguished Service Award from the Alumni Association of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. He has served as an on boards of the Playhouse Square Foundation, United Way of Greater Cleveland, Bellefaire JCB, Shoes and Clothes for Kids and many others.

In 1960, gelb joined the national board of Big Brothers of America and became national president in 1970, and as such was invited to attend a special event in Los Angeles, The 250 Dinner. The event, held annually, was attended by 250 prestigious men who paid $250 per ticket. Three cities hosted a 250 dinner in those years; Los Angeles, San Diego and Philadelphia.

The first 250 Club black tie event in Cleveland was held in 1971 and gelb was the first chairman. In 10 years, the event was a such a success that the event no longer was capped at 250 attendees. The 250 Club has been one of the premier charity events in Cleveland, raising nearly $2 million for Big Brothers Big Sisters, both nationally and the two local chapters, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cleveland and Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters.

gelb was the vice chair of the Chautauqua Foundation in New York, Chautauqua Institution’s fundraising arm. He was the first Jew to serve on its foundation board and chaired a campaign from 2003 to 2007 that raised $53 million.

gelb began writing his name in lowercase letters in memory of his late son, Robert Gelb, who died in 1994 as a result of complications from AIDS. gelb and his wife, joan, both chose to lowercase their names in his memory. gelb was asked by former Cleveland Mayor Michael R. White to chair the city’s citizen’s committee on HIV and AIDS.

gelb is survived by his wife of 70 years, joan; three daughters, Leslie Gelb, Kathy de Windt and Cindy Grabner, seven grandchildren; and 12 great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by his son, Robert.

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