Irwin Hochberg, a former chairman of UJA-Federation of New York’s board of directors who helped shepherd the 1986 merger of United Jewish Appeal and the local federation, died in his Manhattan home of natural causes on Oct. 11. He was 89.
The Brooklyn-born Hochberg was a leading activist and philanthropist for more than a dozen major pro-Israel organizations, and he was remembered this week as “a Zionist giant.”
Hochberg was a member of the Jewish Agency for Israel’s board of governors; national campaign chair of State of Israel Bonds; chairman of the Anti-Defamation League International Division; vice-chair of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA); a member of the World Jewish Congress’ executive committee; an executive committee member of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC); a founding trustee of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy; president of the American Friends of the Open University of Israel; chairman of the Middle East Forum’s executive committee; as well as being a member of the boards of directors for the Jewish National Fund, Fuel For Truth, America-Israel Friendship League, American Friends of Beit Hatfutsot (the Museum of the Jewish People), the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA).
As a leader of UJA-Federation, an organization that praised Hochberg’s commitment to philanthropy as “unparalleled,” Hochberg helped guide the landmark 1986 merger of United Jewish Appeal and the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies, as well as steering UJA-Federation’s Project Renewal.
A UJA-Federation spokesperson said, “We lost a true visionary and philanthropic leader with the passing of Irwin Hochberg, a passionate and unwavering supporter of Israel and its people. Irwin played an instrumental role in the merger of United Jewish Appeal and Federation, and we are forever grateful for his deep commitment to strengthening the Jewish community around the globe.”
The ZOA’s chair, Dr. Michael Goldblatt, saluted Hochberg as “a Zionist giant” whose “love of Israel and devotion to … the Jewish people was second-to-none.” Citing Hochberg’s work with Christian Zionists on behalf of Israel, most notably Eagles’ Wings, and his leadership in ZOA’s departments of campus activism, government relations and law and justice, Goldblatt recalled Hochberg’s “wise counsel” and “extraordinary knowledge,” adding that “along with his brilliance came a great sense of humor and a disarming manner of dealing with serious issues.”
Hochberg, a certified public accountant, was president of Bloom Hochberg & Co. for 59 years, as well as a developer of shopping centers and residential, farm and industrial properties. The author of “Zionist and Patriot,” Hochberg was a frequent guest lecturer in universities on Israel and Middle East Studies.
He is survived by three sons, Mitchell, Jonathan and Richard, grandchildren Isabelle, Julia, Jordan, Ethan and Sabrina, and was a husband to Rita (deceased 2004), Joan (deceased 2017) and a brother to Sybil Barer.