Home 2021-03-10T03:50:41+00:00

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 March 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 across the community, displaying the breadth of our wonderful community and in continuing to honor Irving and making sure his legacy lives on.

Last year’s award was presented to The Mega Challah Bake in recognition of his incredible work. The prior award went to Ari Katz in recognition of 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.  A profile of how the funds have been allocated will be delivered as subsequent award winners are announced in the JLife magazine each January.

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 inaugural committee consists of:

Wendy Arenson Executive Director, Jewish Community Foundation of Orange County
Hal Altman Board Chair, Merage Jewish Community Center of Orange County
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner Rabbi, Beth Jacob Congregation of Irvine
Franki Cohen Representative of the Samson Family
Steve Kaufman Board Chair, Tarbut v’Torah Community Day School
Rabbi Peter Levi Regional Director, Anti-Defamation League, Orange County
Rabbi Stuart Light Director, Jewish Life and Learning, Tarbut v’Torah Community Day School
Arlene Miller President, Jewish Federation and Family Services of Orange County
Rabbi Elie Spitz Rabbi, Congregation B’nai Israel
Rabbi Alter Tenenbaum Rabbi, Chabad of Irvine
Lou Weiss Representative of the Gelman Family
Rabbi Gersh Zylberman Rabbi, 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 a contribution of $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’d like to submit as a potential award winner? Please fill out the form below and we will contact you to discuss your candidate’s qualifications. To ensure your nominations receive full consideration, please submit them by November 19, 2021.