Naftali Gad was born on February 15,
1936 in a bygone community in Afghanistan. The Hebrew date was Tu B’Shevat — a
foreshadowing, perhaps, of the fruitful life ahead of him. At the age of six,
he moved with his family (via India) to Eretz Yisrael. The transition was not
easy for Naftali. Sensing his plight, his mother sent him to live on a kibbutz
with many boys his age. In an early sign of his characteristic faith and
resilience, his struggles never cast a shadow over him or dimmed his ebullience
and passion for life. Instead, they developed within him a deep sense of
empathy and an abiding concern for others in need. It was this caring and
generous spirit that marked him as a leader among his peers on the kibbutz; in
later years, it would lead him to reach out with his G-d-given resources and
make philanthropy a major focus of his life.
Growing up in Eretz Yisrael, Naftali
developed a lifelong love for the land. Like the members of his namesake tribe,
who “risked their lives on the heights of the battlefield” (Shoftim 5:18), Naftali fought in
defense of his people during the Sinai War. Even while living in New York, he
never forgot his homeland. He visited Israel frequently, not only in times of
peace but also in times of distress. He showed a special interest in Jews
living in vulnerable areas such as Hebron and Beit Lehem, recognizing his
nation’s deep-rooted connection to those cities.
Naftali never took his success for
granted. He recognized the importance of using his position and status to lead,
help and finance Jewish causes and institutions, many of which his wife
continues to support. Filled with love for Torah, he was unsparing in his
support for Yeshivot and many other humanitarian causes. His boundless energy
and pioneering nature gave him the zeal to build things from scratch, and he
was the driving force behind the founding of many different Yeshivot in Eretz
Yisrael, providing students with a sound Torah education. So enthusiastic was
he about the mitzvah of charity that he did not wait to be approached to
fulfill this mitzvah. He personified the ideal of ahavat hesed —
kindness out of love, rather than merely out of duty — and his benevolence
continues to serve as an example for his children.
Naftali Gad passed away on January 9,
1999, 21st of Tevet 5759, but his legacy lives on through the
wonderful family he raised, the countless lives he touched and the Jewish
institutions he helped build.
His widow, Shifra Borochov Gad and his
children Michael Gad, Joseph Gad, Lilly Gad Ishay and Peggy Gad Dahan follow
his traditions and created loving families who follow the Jewish traditions.
נדבות פי רצה נא ה',
O God, please accept with favor the offerings of my mouth,
and teach me your laws.
This memoir was contributed by Joseph and Vanessa Gad.