Irving Stone, a greeting card executive and philanthropist who funded the best-selling, modern English translation of the Torah, died Monday at University Hospitals in Cleveland after a long illness. He was 90.
Mr. Stone, founder-chairman of American Greetings Corp. in Cleveland, endowed four major educational programs at Yeshiva University and supported a wide variety of Jewish and Israeli causes.
The Stone Edition Chumash, a 1993 annotated translation of the five books of Moses published by Mesorah Publications — it is popularly known as “The Stone Chumash” — has sold more than 300,000 copies, said Rabbi Nosson Scherman, Mesorah general editor. “It’s a huge number” in the Jewish publishing field.
“Mr. Stone often said one of his great regrets in his life was not being able to receive a Jewish education when he was young,” Rabbi Scherman said. “He made it his mission to see that other people could receive a Jewish education. The Chumash is only one facet … a natural facet of his commitment to Jewish education.”
Mr. Stone started working at the age of 5 in the family business, founded in 1906 by his father Jacob Sapirstein. He stuffed postcards into envelopes. At 9, when his father suffered an extended illness, he handled the entire business, from sales to delivery to billing.
Mr. Stone built American Greetings, along with his late brother Morris and brother Harry, a director of the firm, into the world’s largest privately owned manufacturer and distributor of greeting cards. Headquartered in the Cleveland suburb of Brooklyn, American Greetings produces more than 20,000 designs a year, with sales of $2.2 billion.
He became president of the firm in 1960, and was elected chairman of the board in 1978.
Mr. Stone was a board member of Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, and he established four programs at the school — the Stone Sapirstein Chair in Jewish Education, the Irving I. Stone Rabbinic Mentorship Program, the Irving I. Stone Beit Midrash Program, and the Irving I. Stone Distinguished Professorship in Jewish Education at the Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration.
He was chairman of the board of the Hebrew Academy of Cleveland, vice president of Boys Town Jerusalem, founder of Kiryat Telshe Stone in Israel, and a board member of Bar-Ilan University.
“Few individuals have contributed so much to the education and welfare of the Jewish people as Irving Stone and his life partner Helen,” said Norman Lamm, president of Yeshiva University. “A corporate giant, we are indebted to Mr. Stone who perpetuated Jewish tradition and Torah learning through his extraordinary generosity and leadership.”
Mr. Stone would travel to Jewish federations across the United States, encouraging them to support Jewish day schools, Rabbi Scherman said. “He had a great sense of community.” Rabbi Scherman said Mr. Stone called the Chumash and another printing of the Torah that featured Rashi’s commentaries “the best investments he ever made.”
Mr. Stone’s first wife, Beatrice, died 24 years ago. He is survived by his second wife, Helen; his brother, Harry; a sister, Bernice; four children, Hensha Stone Gansbourg, Neil Stone, Myrna Sapirstein Tatar and Judith Stone Weiss; and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.