Eugene J. Ribakoff
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Eugene J. Ribakoff of Palm Beach, renowned philanthropist and successful businessman, died Friday April 9th in Palm Beach.

As a community leader, Mr. Ribakoff served as Chairman and President of the JDC, the largest Jewish humanitarian aid organization in the world, from 2000 to 2008. He navigated the JDC through a period of rapid growth and change, helping to rescue Jews in more than 70 countries throughout the world. He also served as Chairman of the JDC's Eastern Europe Committee, JDC's Israel Committee, and the JDC Trans-Migrant Program. Under his direction, the JDC resettled hundreds of thousands of Soviet Jews. He helped rebuild Jewish life in St. Peterburg, Russia by funding a portion of the new JCC facility Yesod. Mr. Ribakoff's JDC tenure was a role he loved, and one he often called "the best job in the Jewish world."

Mr. Ribakoff's list of accomplishments was extensive. But what he really cared about was taking care of people, which he often did quietly. Abused children in Jerusalem needing a safe home to learn and to heal, delinquent teenage girls needing a third chance, elderly Jews needing day care in Russia; these were just a few of the hundreds of projects he funded. When Israeli employees were under a wage freeze, he found a way to reduce their costs of living by subsidizing the JDC lunchroom.

In addition to the JDC, Mr. Ribakoff helped a broad range of non-profit organizations over the course of his life. He was Deputy President of World ORT, President of the United Way of Palm Beach County, Founder and President of Temple Sinai, Chairman of the Florida-Israel Chamber of Commerce, and President of the Jewish Federations of both Palm Beach County and Worcester, Massachusetts. Mr. Ribakoff was an active board member of many important organizations in Massachusetts, Florida, and nationwide, including the Boston Museum of Science, the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston, Massachusetts General, and Brandeis University.

As a business leader, Mr. Ribakoff built multiple successful businesses in the automotive sector over a 62-year career, including Automotive Management, Inc., AMI Leasing, and Harr Motor Companies.

His impact on the organizations he helped shape was tremendous. Fellow Palm Beach United Way past President and longtime friend Sidney Kohl called him "Palm Beach's distinguished community citizen, whose volunteer efforts have extended throughout the world. For all of us who knew him well, we realized his overriding personal goal was always focused on those who were least able to help themselves."

Phil Whitacre, former president of the Town of Palm Beach United Way, lauded Mr. Ribakoff: "He was the quintessential gentleman. Whether in a private meeting with the Pope to help alleviate world-wide anti-Semitism, or spending time with a client of one of United Way's 46 agencies, his legacy of longtime humanitarian service will be long remembered. His life is a testimony to service above self."

Mr. Ribakoff was born in Worcester, Massachusetts. He was educated at Case Western Reserve University, and lived in Worcester, Cleveland, Boston, and Palm Beach.

Mr. Ribakoff is survived by his wife Stephanie, his son Charles (Patty), his daughter Betsy Sheerr (Richard), seven grandchildren (Ben and his wife Elizabeth; Deborah and her husband Zach; Jack, Corky, Nicki, Lauren, and Melanie), and three great-grandchildren (Charles, Mia, and Noah). He was predeceased by his wife Corky in 1998.

Services will be held on Sunday April 11th at 4pm at Temple Emanu-El, 190 North County Road, Palm Beach, FL. Memorial observance will be held in Boston on Monday evening at the home of Patty and Charles Ribakoff, in Philadelphia on Tuesday evening at the home of Betsy and Richard Sheerr, and in Palm Beach on Wednesday and Thursday from 2-8pm at the home of Stephanie Ribakoff. Contributions in Mr. Ribakoff's memory may be made to the JDC, 711 Third Avenue, New York NY 10017.


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Published in Worcester Telegram & Gazette on Apr. 11, 2010.
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24 entries
October 9, 2017
Mr. Gene Ribkakoff was a great owner . I will always remember the day we sat down and talked about my new born baby with a cigar he will be miss by many of his workers and family.
Lawrence Thomas
May 27, 2010
To Charles,Betsy and the rest of the family,

I send to you all, my deepest sympathy for your loss and a great loss it is to your family, as well as to the world !

I drove for your Dad after Mr. Docwra retired. His work ethic and sacrifice of self was a shining example and positive affect on all that knew him. The world was blessed to have G_d our Master and Creator send him into it for the short period he was here. Your Dad's influence on my life at that time was so deep that it change me then, and,...who I was to become...a man who is trying to emulate what I remember your dad to be. Your Dads was man of honesty, integrity and had a deep abiding love for hs family & friends. He was a visionary who already saw, long before any manifestation...the good results in peoples live of what would come from his sacrifice and hard work and to inspire confidence in those that his life touched to reach beyond what they believed they thought they were...to what was possible!

"A Great Man he was !", "Missed...he will be!"
Christopher Perron
May 27, 2010
Charles & Betsy, I drove for your Dad after Mr. Docwra retired. This day I bumped into the news. My deepest condolenses to you for your lose. It is a great lose to your family but also to the world. Your Dad changed my life as he has touched and had a great and positive affect on many lives. I was hoping that I could have seen your Dad after my business was succesful to tell him that it was because of his influence in my life that I am the man I have become. My prayers are with you and I know he is joyous being in the presence of G_d our Master.
Christopher Perron
May 11, 2010
Charles,
My condolences to you and your entire family..He was such a "gentle man" and now I realize a GREAT humanitarian..
Best wishes always, David MacGregor
April 29, 2010
Charles:
I've heard only wonderful things about your father. My condolences to you and your family.
Vince Talia
April 24, 2010
Gene was a friend of my father, and I met him in 1966 when I was newly-working and needed to buy my first car. He was extremely generous to me with his time, and most effective in resolving my business problem with his employee. I shall always remember his kindness.
Norman F Raphael
April 17, 2010
My condolences to the Ribakoff family.
Deb Brown (Nel's niece)
April 16, 2010
Charles:
So sorry to hear of your Father's passing. Although many years ago ,I remember and enjoyed the business relationship. It was at Guaranty Bank that Auto Rental got its first financing. I always looked forward to meeting with him and covering the news at the moment both financial and local.

Best regards,

Harry Cutts
Harry Cutts
April 15, 2010
Kay Hanson and Peter Kaplan send their deepest sympathy to Charles, Patty and their family. We did not know him in person but we felt we did as we know of the difference he made in the world and as he was reflected in your life. May his spirit continue to grow in each of you and that will become his greatest legacy. We send our love and wishes for peace of heart as you come to accept his passing.
Kay and Peter Kaplan
April 14, 2010
Grandpa, Ben and Deborah
April 14, 2010
GG and Noah
April 14, 2010
Gene was one of my Dad's best friends, and he always enjoyed any time they got to spend together. They were part of that special generation who succeeded with hard work and determination, took wonderful care of their families and loved giving back some of their good fortune to improve the lives of others. Our sympathies to the entire family; Gene touched so many lives and will be missed by all.
Alan & Jill Sandler
April 13, 2010
GG, Ben, Charles, Mia
April 13, 2010
Remembering Grandpa: Through the Window

It’s hard to believe that Grandpa is gone. Just last Saturday, my 3 year-old son Charles and I looked out the window. We saw Grandpa sitting outside, and walked over for a sunset visit. We chatted, I chased Charles around the patio, Grandpa hugged Charles, and we went back home for bedtime. It was just another typical weekend.

Then the world changed.

Friday night, I got in the car with Elizabeth and drove home from the hospital. We had come to see Grandpa, and we ended up saying goodbye forever. When I got home, Charles asked me, “Where is GG?”

I didn’t know what to tell him.

Here’s what I’d like to say to him now.

Grandpa knew how to make people feel special. When I was 10 years old, Grandpa surprised me with a visit to Philadelphia. Baseball was our favorite sport, and he came with tickets. The World Series. Yes, the Phillies lost, as they usually did. But Grandpa made it a wonderful memory.

Grandpa had a special combination: a sharp tongue, and a soft heart. You couldn’t fool Grandpa. On Friday morning, when the doctor shouted, “Gene, can you hear me?” Grandpa spoke, quietly but clearly. “No!” His humor was intact, even on his final day.

Still, this was a man who had infinite patience and love for people around him, and especially for his grandchildren. Deborah remembers that he taught her to swim, and in recent years, how she treasured her weekly “Shabbat shalom” calls with Grandpa. Corky and Nicki remember Grandpa as the man who babysat their American Girl dolls, who listened carefully as they told Grandpa and Stephanie all about the dolls’ food allergies, and who complied with their instructions to let them watch their favorite TV shows.

Grandpa knew how to lead by example. As each grandchild came of age, he set up charitable Foundations for each of us. He wanted to teach us how to give. So every birthday, he would make a gift to each Foundation, with simple instructions. Find a good cause! Just last Monday, he took Jack out to dinner, one-on-one, to talk about ways to make meaningful life choices.

More importantly, he taught us how to get involved. The summer I graduated from college, I went on a roadtrip. But it wasn’t the typical roadtrip. I went with my Grandpa. We went to Szarvash, a Hungarian camp that the JDC had created, to help kids in Eastern Europe rediscover their Judaism. Grandpa derived great joy from spending time with these children. We slept in camp barracks, we talked to kids in my broken Hebrew and their broken English, and we had a Shabbat full of ruach. Later, for his 70th birthday, he brought the entire family to Israel, to enrich our experience as a family. Jack and Lauren turned 13 that year, and Grandpa decided it was time he became a Bar Mitzvah, too. So up Masada we hiked. A torah service on top.

Grandpa was really a giant, in our family and in the world. All these personal memories were a microcosm of what Grandpa did on a big stage. At the JDC, among his many accomplishments, Grandpa ran the Trans-Migrant Program, and helped to resettle hundreds of thousands of Soviet Jews. This was a 20th century Exodus, a modern-day miracle. And two weeks ago, there he was in Palm Beach, leading the family Passover seder, speeding Grandpa-style through the pages, to Next Year in Jerusalem. L’dor va dor. From one generation of Exodus to another, all linked by Grandpa.

Grandpa was my role model. I wanted to learn from him, so much so that I followed him twice. In 1995, I moved to Boston. One big plus was the chance to spend time with Grandpa, and with Grandma Corky. We celebrated family dinners, we went to Red Sox games, and we debated how to fix CJP and the world. I would show up, Grandma would give me a hug and tell me to use Rogaine, and Grandpa would ask me if I had finally found an apartment that wasn’t a four-story walk-up.

Ten years later, I finally found a ground-level apartment, when I followed Grandpa again and moved to Palm Beach. Elizabeth and I wanted to spend more time with Grandpa, and with Grandma Stephanie. So we bought the home next door, I started a business, and Elizabeth and I started a family. Nighttimes, Grandpa would sit outside and smoke a cigar, and sometimes I would walk over to join him on the patio. Grandpa never gave me unsolicited advice. But when I asked, he always had a good insight that cut to the point. Just last month, I looked out the window and saw Grandpa. He asked about my business. He told me not to hire a partner with character doubts. He even coached me on being nicer to Elizabeth.

We had a special time. Three generations, all next door. Sometimes, Charles would look out the window, point outside, and say, “Let’s go see GG!” Some of Charles’ loudest giggles came from those visits with his GG.

So what will we tell his great-grandchildren, Charles, Mia and Noah? Where is GG? I would say this: that GG is everywhere. In his love and commitment to the Jewish people, and to humanity, GG’s values are forever imprinted in us. GG was someone who always knew what mattered most. Someone who made you feel special. Someone who listened like you were the only person in the world. Someone who was full of suggestions, but who only told you when you asked. Someone who was brimming with love. Someone with a great legacy for all of his 10 grandchildren and great-grandchildren to continue.

That dreary Friday in the hospital, I held Grandpa’s hand. After he passed, I said “We’ll miss you, Grandpa. We’ll make you proud, Grandpa.” We will.
Ben Gordon
April 13, 2010
GG, Ben, Charles, Mia
April 13, 2010
GG and Charles2
April 13, 2010
GG and Charles1
April 13, 2010
Great-Grandpa and his First Great-Grandson
April 12, 2010
Myra and Leslie J. Stark extend deepest sympathies to Betsy and her entire family.
Leslie J. Stark
April 12, 2010
a gentleman his entire life/ some one never to be replaced//for over 40 years a person i was proud to say i knew /with respect jacob soloway
April 12, 2010
The Board of Directors of the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel and its staff extend their sincerest condolences to the Ribakoff Family on the passing of our Board member, supporter and friend, Eugene Ribakoff. From the earliest days of the Center, Gene was one of its staunchest supporters and was amongst the first within JDC to recognize the importance of an independent and professional research center in Israel. His legacy continues and the Center continues to do work and offer policy recommendations that are free of political or partisan influences.
May you be comforted amongst the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem and may you know no more sorrow.

Caryn Wolf Wechsler, Chair, Taub Center Board of Directors
Dan Ben-David, Executive Director, Taub Center
April 11, 2010
Many years ago I worked for Mr. Ribakoff at AMI, I found him to be a nice and generous man.
Susan
April 11, 2010
I was very sorry to learn of Gene's passing. Although I have not seen him in years, my memory of Gene is wonderful. My sincere condolences to his family.
Michael Sweig
Chicago IL
April 11, 2010
a truly wonderful person i enjoyed everyday i worked for him a great man
we are sorry for your loss our thoughts and prayers are with your family
Ken Garabedian and Family
ken garabedian
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