Harvey Hertz doesn’t seek publicity or accolades for his humanitarian gestures but they are well-known and appreciated beyond measure by those organizations and countless individuals on the receiving end. The depth of his desire to give and help others is rooted in a childhood of meager means. His parents had little money in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he grew up and lived until he was 17. He was obsessed with stocks. “My true love going back to when I was about 14 years old was the stock market,” he says. “I didn’t go to bed until I got the New York Times. It came out about 10:30 or 11 p.m. and had the stock pages. I’d track them and chart the stocks. It was a fun thing for me, like playing chess.”
He began opening his checkbook on a grand scale two years ago, touched by news reports about the devastating forest fire that killed some 40 people in Haifa, Israel. That prompted him to contribute more than a million dollars in assistance to the Jewish National Fund. But it was only the beginning.
Today, his gifts have totaled several million dollars in support to such places as his longtime place of worship, Temple Beth-El; the Jewish National Fund; the Florida Holocaust Museum; and, Gulf Coast Jewish Family and Community Services. “Harvey is such an amazing individual and we’re so grateful for everything he’s done,” says Barbara Sterensis, the Gulf Coast’s board chair.
The retired Raymond James senior broker has funded programs that have enhanced lives and opportunities and allowed Gulf Coast JFCS to continue its mission on a broad scale. In appreciation of his Gulf Coast efforts, the organization that for 50 years has provided critical services to vulnerable communities and individuals is dedicating a wing of its building in his honor – the Harvey Hertz Jewish Family Services Center .
“I was introduced to Gulf Coast by Barbara, so I went to a meeting of some of the top people there – and they told me what they did,” he recalls. “I was very impressed. Not only were they helping Jewish families in need, but anybody who came to them. I was never in a position to give in this way earlier in my life,” he says on a balmy morning as seagulls squawk in the distance. “So I feel good being able to do it now and know that I’m helping people.”
Excerpt from feature story by Dave Scheiber