Philanthropist Michael Steinhardt was walking on a street in Berlin in the 1990s with Jack Nash, an old friend — and refugee from Nazi Germany — who was returning to his homeland for the first time in five decades.
Mr. Nash related a story of the time when, as a child, he went for a walk on those Berlin streets with his family’s nanny. They inadvertently came across a Nazi parade, he told Steinhardt. “All around, people were standing, giving that one-arm salute,” he described that memory.
“He knew he was supposed to do it,” Steinhardt said. “His nanny pushed him to do it.”
“He refused,” Steinhardt said.
Friends say that early experience as a Jew in the Third Reich defined and affected Mr. Nash, a prominent businessman and contributor to Jewish causes, who died in Mount Sinai Medical Center on July 30 at 79, after a lengthy illness.
“He was a little bit of an iconoclast,” Steinhardt said. “He was straight, impatient, demanding. He was committed to the Jewish people and to Israel.”
Growing up in Nazi Germany “had to affect him,” said Ludwig Bravmann, a longtime business associate of Mr. Nash and a fellow refugee. “It made him want to learn more about Judaism and why his family was persecuted.”
Mr. Nash, a former chairman of the Oppenheimer & Company mutual fund business, was also a founder of The New York Sun. He was an investment banker who helped shape the modern hedge fund business, and a philanthropist who aided a wide variety of Jewish and civic causes.
“He didn’t seek the limelight. He did not seek organizational titles,” Steinhardt said.
“His courage and spirit were inspirational,” said John Ruskay, executive vice president of UJA-Federation.
In addition to UJA-Federation, Mr. Nash was a supporter of numerous Jewish institutions, including Mount Sinai Medical Center, the Israel Museum, Shaare Zedek Medical Center and Yeshiva University.
“There would be no Hazon,” an environmental-centered Jewish advocacy organization, “were it not for Jack Nash,” Nigel Savage, Hazon’s founder, wrote on an on-line blog entry this week. Mr. Nash financially backed the organization’s formation. “He enabled the birth of Hazon because he cared about the Jewish people and because he was willing to take a risk on an unknown 30-something,” Savage wrote.
Mr. Nash, who left Germany with his family before World War II, graduated from Stuyvesant High School and the City College of New York.
Mr. Nash is survived by his wife, Helen; two children, Joshua and Pamela; and six grandchildren.