Memo: The Passing of Heshy Jacob

June 29, 2016

To: All Cooperators

From: Gary Altman, President

Re: Heshy Jacob

As most or all of us know by now, our long-time General Manager Harold (Heshy) Jacob passed away last week after a relatively short illness. The good deeds and life saving actions which Heshy performed every day are little known by many people but have affected thousands and thousands of people and families of every race, religion and ethnic origin in our community and throughout our city and state. The respect that Heshy never sought out but had attained through a lifetime of tireless charitable, community and civic devotion meant that virtually no major politician running for city, state or national office didn’t call or stop by to sit down with Heshy. The benefits of these relationships have improved the lives of so many in our Cooperative Village. Below I will write about just a few areas in which Heshy’s life impacted so many but first want to write about our co-op at the present time.

Heshy became our General Manager in 1988 joining Shulie Wollman, our Manager, who arrived 2 years earlier in 1986. Heshy and Shulie saw us through, to name a few, reconstitution, new roofs, elevators, lobbies, hallways, Superstorm Sandy, upgrade of our electrical infrastructure and the transformation of our property into countless beautiful garden areas. Our carrying charges are virtually unmatched anywhere else with the level of maintenance service we provide. Any cooperator who believes, as I do, that this is not only a beautiful, fantastic and desirable place to live but a cooperative where a large and diverse group of people live in harmony, owes much of this success to Heshy Jacob and Shulie Wollman.

In recent years as Heshy geared up for an eventual retirement, that sadly he will not get to enjoy with his beloved wife Esther, his 5 children, many grandchildren and even great grandchildren, he turned over much of the day to day running and management of our cooperative to Shulie. Heshy, among many other things, then focused years of energy and time bringing the boiler room conversion to a very successful conclusion. Besides saving millions and millions of dollars in fuel costs our new plant now burns clean natural gas which is a bonus environmental and health benefit to all of us. Shulie while running day to day management has just completed the beautiful renovation of our fitness center, last year’s community room upgrade, renegotiation of our mortgage at very favorable rates, further expansion of our gardens, renegotiation of large commercial leases, 3 laundry room underground pipe repairs, labor contracts, union matters, finances, security and myriad issues facing a cooperative of about 4-5,000 people. Heshy’s loss is immeasurable but our Cooperative remains in very capable, committed and devoted hands.

It is said that he or she who saves but one life it is as if they saved the entire world. Then Heshy’s lifelong volunteering work in front of and behind the scenes saved many thousands of worlds. As President of NYC Hatzolah, and the Founder of the Lower East Side Hatzolah, our incredible daily life saving volunteer ambulance corps, Heshy used much of his free time building a volunteer organization which 24/7 – 365 days a year serves one purpose – SAVING LIVES. Very few of us have not been affected by this amazing group of people. Hatzolah answers every call and never, never, never asks about your religion, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation. They only ask what is wrong and where you live. It doesn’t matter if it is 2 A.M. or the Sabbath, they come running with their equipment, often before their ambulance is retrieved from its nearby garage. Call 911 and take your chance on how long you may wait. Call Hatzolah and with their life saving quickness and expertise you will likely be attending your cousin’s wedding in a few weeks. On 9/11 Heshy and many of our Co-op Village Hatzolah volunteers were not only first responders but one of the VERY first responders. They were there so quickly and were so close to the towers that they had already treated numerous of the injured when the first tower fell and destroyed their ambulance and almost took a number of their lives. This was one of Heshy’s passions and it extended to other areas of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Upstate where Hatzolah ambulances, supported only by donations, stand ready 24/7 to save lives. A few years ago when a cooperator with Alzheimer’s went missing, Heshy within minutes mobilized a huge search group. Our cooperator was safely found wandering in Northern Manhattan.

As General Manager of East River Housing and Hillman Housing, Heshy was in charge of 2,500 apartments containing approximately 6,000 people. This is more people than most towns and villages in our country. With so many people come the usual social, financial, medical, emotional and conflict issues that invariably arise and eventually often come to the Management Office. Heshy, Shulie and the staff dealt daily with many of these problems which rightfully very few people should ever know about. As Chairman of the United Jewish Council of the East Side, Heshy and the Council’s devoted staff served the needs of countless families of all religions who needed social services, financial, housing, home health care help, etc. For East River cooperators that meant that any person who needed assistance for themselves or a loved one (like a child or elderly parent) could always go directly to the UJC or if they first contacted the management office could immediately be assisted or directed to the proper party. No person who came forward or who was heard to need any kind of assistance was ever left behind. If a family member’s name was on file, they were contacted and apprised of the situation so they could hopefully also help with emotional and other support for loved ones they had often left somewhat on their own.

At his funeral 2 comments made really struck me as indicative of the inner heart and soul of Heshy. One was when Rabbi Reuven Feinstein said that when one asks for volunteers for an assignment people stand up, sometimes reluctantly, but with Heshy, “He would jump up and say count me in, what needs to be done and he would get it done.” If I received a call or letter and couldn’t personally help and brought a cooperator’s problem or need of assistance to Heshy he would immediately spring into action or pick up the phone and start making calls. In extreme cases he would ask me to give him a day or 2 to find a solution, and sure enough within days the cooperator received the help he or she needed from the proper sources.

The second was when his oldest grandson said he once asked his grandfather, “Why do you do so many good deeds?” Heshy answered, “It is in my nature, my blood. I have no choice. I have to help people and as long as I have strength, I’ll be there.” To those who truly knew him, he was not the sometimes boisterous and opinionated great presence you saw when he fought for our community or a cause he believed in. Politicians never wanted Heshy on the other side of an issue affecting our community. To his friends and family he was in private a humble man who never boasted publicly of his accomplishments and good deeds. He was a loving and devoted husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather who by example taught all around him the meaning of community, charity and good deeds often at the expense of more time that could have been spent with his loved ones.

One of the greatest enjoyments in life, besides our family, is helping others to the best of our ability without fanfare or seeking out acknowledgements. In this Heshy Jacob was a giant and a friend whose stature and influence the Lower East Side may never be able to replace. In his memory and on behalf of our community and all those in need let’s all commit ourselves to respecting each other, getting along and helping as best we can. In this way Heshy’s life accomplishments will continue to bear fruits in the years to come.