Philanthropist Jack Mandel dies at 99 in Cleveland

He and his brothers turned an auto-parts shop into an industrial giant, then became leaders in philanthropy

The Mandel brothers: Joseph, Morton and Jack

Jack N. Mandel, a major industrialist, philanthropist and benefactor of Brandeis University, died May 12, at his home in Cleveland, Ohio. He was 99.

With his brothers, Joseph and Morton, Jack Mandel created the Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education at Brandeis University, which opened in 2002, and the spectacular new Mandel Center for the Humanities, which opened in 2010.

"Jack Mandel was a generous, selfless individual who has meant so much to Brandeis over the years," Brandeis President Fred Lawrence said this week.  "He invested in people with the values, ability and passion to change the world."

Brandeis President-emeritus Jehuda Reinharz, who became president of the Mandel Foundation on Jan. 1, said: "Jack Mandel was a very wise, kind and generous man.  He treated everyone with respect and a wry sense of humor and was beloved by everyone who came into contact with him.  He will be sorely missed."

Mandel was born in 1911 in Kolbusowa, Poland. In 1913, his father came to the United States in preparation for relocating the family. Due to World War I, the relocation was delayed until 1920, when Jack was nine years old.

He attended Cleveland Public Schools and graduated from Glenville High School in 1929, where his education was based on half-day programs because, from age 14 on, he spent the rest of the day working. His jobs included selling the Cleveland News, ushering at the Palace Theatre, spot-welding at Cleveland Metal Products and die-casting at Superior Casting Company.

Following high school, he worked for an uncle who operated a small automotive parts store. In 1940, he and his brothers, Joseph and Morton, pooled $900 to purchase their uncle's store and founded Premier Automotive Supply Company. They built the business into a leading industrial company that went public in 1960, compiled an outstanding record for profit and innovation, and was purchased in 1996 by Farnell Electronics PLC, of London, England, to form Premier Farnell, PLC.

In 1953, the Mandel brothers created a charitable foundation that today focuses on the management of nonprofit organizations; Jewish education and continuity; leadership; higher education, and urban neighborhood renewal.

Jack Mandel also was active in a number of community causes. He served on the boards of Cleveland's Montefiore care center, the Cleveland Sight Center and the Cleveland Play House. He was a Life Trustee of The Temple-Tifereth Israel and of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland.

In addition to his brothers, he is survived by sister-in-law and Brandeis trustee Barbara A. Mandel, the wife of Morton Mandel; a son, Sheldon Mandel; and numerous nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his wife, Lilyan; daughter, Bonnie; and sister, Meriam Cole.

Over the years many institutions have been founded or generously supported by the brothers, including the centers for Jewish education and the humanities at Brandeis; the Mandel Center for Nonprofit Organizations and the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University; and the Mandel Center for Excellence in Leadership and Management and Mandel Center for Jewish Education of the Jewish Community Centers of North America.

In Israel, the brothers' foundation supports the Mandel Leadership Institute, the Mandel Center for Leadership in the Negev and, most recently, the Mandel Center for the Humanities at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Sharon Feiman-Nemser, who is the Mandel Professor of Jewish Education and director of the Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education, said she "was struck by Jack Mandel's warmth and zest for living. Side-by-side with his brothers Mort and Joe, Jack left an indelible mark on Jewish and public life in the United States and in Israel. Through his support for Jewish education, leadership and civic life he made the world a better place. We are grateful for his support of our work and for all of his significant philanthropic efforts."

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