The Irving

“Papa” Gelman

Leadership Award

What Is The Award?

Irving “Papa” Gelman left an indelible mark on the Orange County Jewish community. Papa did not see our community as Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, unaffiliated, or other. Papa saw our community as Klal Yisrael, the entirety of the Jewish People.

The “Irving ‘Papa’ Gelman Leadership Award” was established to honor Papa’s extraordinary legacy and promote the strengthening and growth of our UNITED Jewish community for countless decades to come.

This award is to be presented every January to an individual or group from within the Orange County Jewish community who best exemplifies Papa’s values and who also has left an indelible mark on the Orange County Jewish community.

We are united to perpetuate Judaism, displaying the breadth of our wonderful community and continuing to honor Irving and make sure his legacy lives on.

Nominees cannot be:

  • Jewish professionals whose outstanding work was within the context of their professional portfolio.
  • Any current or immediate past members of the Gelman Award Committee.
  • The Award cannot be given posthumously.

Our Past Award Winners:

Our Fourth Annual Award
Adrienne Matros for her decades of dedicated leadership with the JCC of OC and numerous other organizations.

Our Third Annual Award
Jackie Menter, primarily for her work with the Orange County Jewish Coalition for Refugees

Our Second Annual Award
The Mega Challah Bake

Our First Annual Award
Arie Katz, primarily for his work with the Community Scholar Program

The award consists of an $18,000 account at the Jewish Community Foundation of Orange County. The $18,000 will be allocated at the discretion of the award recipient to benefit Jewish 501(c)(3) organizations in Orange County whose beneficiaries are within the OC.

Who Is The Committee?

Our committee was formed to ensure that Papa’s memory will live on and that his legacy will inspire others to greater acts of communal involvement. Through this award, we are hoping the Jewish community will be strengthened and deepened for generations to come. The committee consists of a broad spectrum of leadership across all denominations and all facets of the Jewish community.

The committee consists of:

Hal Altman Chair of Board of the Merage Jewish Community Center of Orange County
Wendy Arenson Executive Director and President of the Jewish Community Foundation of Orange County
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner The Lawrence Rael Rabbinic Chair at Beth Jacob Congregation of Irvine
Franki Cohen Representative of the Samson Foundation and the Samson Family
Steve Kaufman Former Chair of the Boards of Directors of Beth Jacob Congregation of Irvine, TVT, and Solomon Society Mensch of the Year
Heather Kline Chair of the Board of the Jewish Federation of Orange County
Rabbi Peter Levi Regional Director, ADL Orange County / Long Beach
Rabbi Stuart Light Director of Jewish Life and Learning at Tarbut V’Torah Community Day School
Rabbi Alter Tenenbaum Senior Rabbi at Chabad of Irvine
Lou Weiss Representative of the Gelman Family
Rabbi K’vod Wieder Senior Rabbi at Temple Beth El
Rabbi Gersh Zylberman Senior Rabbi at Temple Bat Yahm

About Irving “Papa” Gelman

Irving “Papa” Gelman was born in Hosht, Poland and survived the Holocaust by hiding in a hole under a barn for 16 months. In April 1947, Gelman immigrated to New York City with only $5.60 after sending his soon-to-be wife Rochelle a telegram confirming he was waiting for her. Gelman began working in a textile business for $35 a week. Seven years later, Gelman established his own textile company named Domka Inc., after the Ukranian woman who saved his life by hiding him and his family on her farm.

“The key to Jewish culture is teaching,” Gelman said.

Gelman’s rich history in Jewish education began with his father who was involved in starting a school in Poland to allow the Jewish culture to survive and thrive. The school was called Tarbut which means “culture.” Gelman’s passion for Jewish education led him to help manage and secure funding for two Jewish schools in New Jersey, Yavneh Academy and The Frisch School, before relocating to Orange County in 1984. In 1991, Gelman founded Tarbut V’Torah Community Day School in loving memory of his daughter Naomi Gelman Weiss.

Submit a Candidate

Do you know someone you would like to nominate as a potential award winner? To ensure your nominations receive consideration, you must submit them by October 26, 2023.