Renowned philanthropist and lay leader of American Jewry Eugen Gluck passed away last night in New York at the age of 92.
Gluck was a Holocaust survivor, and was later instrumental in securing the rights of the Jewish people to rebuild their lives in Judea and Samaria.
Gluck was involved with multiple institutions and projects to benefit Israel and world Jewry including Shaarei Zedek Hospital in Jerusalem, the Magen David Adom emergency responder organzation, and the Yad VaShem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem.
But the bulk of Gluck's philanthropic activities were dedicated to the renewal of Jewish life in the ancient biblical town of Beit El.
Upon meeting the young Yom Kippur War hero and later-to-be Knesset Member Yaakov "Ketzaleh" Katz in the 1970’s, the Glucks 'adopted' the town of Bet El as the primary recipient of their philanthropy.
For four decades, the Glucks organized, sponsored and presided over the Bet El Institutions' Winter Gala, what became the largest Zionist dinner on the east coast of the United States.
Guest Speakers at the annual gala included prominent political figures such as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and US National Security Advisor John Bolton.
Gluck's philanthropy and organizational efforts were the driving force behind the establishment of the many educational institutions in Bet El including the Bet El Yeshiva Center for college-age men, the local Yeshiva High School for boys, and the Jeanie Gluck High School Academy for Girls. Literally thousands of students received their education at these prominent and sought-after schools, all under the sponsorship of the Gluck family.
In 2002, the Glucks expanded their support even further across Israel by establishing the Gluck Israel Defense Forces Preparatory Academy in Bet El.
The Gluck Prep Academy has since brought in over 1,000 youth from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds across the country, providing them with a vital year of intensive training prior to their army service. During their year at the Gluck Academy, these students undergo massive transformations, many of them moving from a life of drugs, crime, and welfare, to enlisting as some of the most dedicated soldiers in combat units, obtaining university degrees, and ultimately becoming well-adjusted and contributing members of Israeli society.
The Gluck’s philanthropy did not benefit Bet El alone. Rather, their support fueled Arutz Sheva Israel National Radio Station, founded by Bet El Institutions in the late 1980’s, which became the first conservative voice on Israel’s airwaves. The radio station, along with a robust website in English and Hebrew and the nationally-distributed Hebrew weekly BeSheva, effected the political revolution which returned Israel’s nationalist camp to power, alongside massive construction to cement Israel’s sovereignty in the Judea and Samaria regions.
Mr. Gluck and his late wife Jeanie were among the earliest American Jewish philanthropists to recognize the urgency and importance of extending the Jewish return to Zion into the recently liberated territories of Judea and Samaria and the eastern neighborhoods of Jerusalem.
In 1990, when Ketzaleh was promoted to be the senior advisor to Housing Minister Ariel Sharon in charge of building of 60,000 housing units in Judea and Samaria, it was Mr. Gluck who was on the phone with Ketzaleh several times a week to aid in whatever was needed to advance this effort. Modern day historians attribute to this period the greatest housing blitz ever in Judea and Samaria and, in effect, pushing the settlement movement to the point of no return cementing forever Israeli sovereignty over the region.
"The fact that some 800,000 Jews live today over the green line in Judea and Samaria and the eastern neighborhoods of Jerusalem is due in great part to this great, late leader Eugen Gluck, of blessed memory," said Ketzaleh.
For decades, Mr. Gluck sponsored the central post-Sukkot holiday "Hakafot Shniyot" of the Jerusalem Municipality in the Jerusalem's Bell Park. Thousands of Jews from numerous countries and all walks of life united together for this celebration.
Mr. Gluck was born on August 9, 1927 in Romania. Known by the nickname Yidel, Eugen was just a young boy when World War II broke out. After surviving the concentration camps, he moved to Antwerp, where he married Jeanie. The couple immigrated to New York in 1948.
After his arrival to the United States, Mr. Gluck worked several odd jobs until he was finally able to open a bakery with his best friend. However, his yearning to accomplish more led him in 1956 to create Armitron Watches, one of the first watch brands to manufacture affordable digital watches for the masses. Armitron has since become a global brand and is ranked as one of the top 10 fine and fashion watch brands in the U.S.
Mr. Gluck's close and trusted partner in building the Torah and the Land of Israel, Ketzaleh, said about his lifelong friend and mentor:
"For 40 years, Mr. Gluck made the return of Jews to Judea and Samaria and numerous charities the central thrust of his life. He was a rare Jew who correctly read the map of Israel's future and contributed much to shape it. He was a primary force in changing the way the State of Israel relates to the liberated territories in Judea and Samaria. In the merit of his activism and philanthropy, this region will remain in Jewish hands forever."
Mr. Gluck is survived by his three children: Sydney Gluck of Manhattan, Rosie Friedman of Forest Hills, NY, and Barbara Weichselbaum of Lawrence, NY.