Menu JTA Search

Harold Ostroff dies at 82

NEW YORK, March 7 (JTA) — Harold Ostroff, the longtime general manager of America’s best-known Jewish newspaper and a giant in the worlds of affordable housing and Yiddish culture, died March 2 at the age of 82. Ostroff became general manager of the Forward Association, owner of the Jewish Daily Forward and its radio station WEVD, in 1976. At the time the two Yiddish cultural institutions were struggling to survive in the face of a steep decline in the Yiddish-speaking population, largely a legacy of the Holocaust. Over the next two decades, Ostroff revamped the newspaper and launched prestigious new publications in English and Russian, restoring the institution to financial stability and reestablishing it as a premier source of news and information on Jewish affairs. He retired as general manager in 1997. “Harold loved newspapers,” Samuel Norich, his successor as publisher of the Forward, said. “He valued them as an instrument of community, and of social justice. He loved to read them, and he loved to have a hand in making them.” Before coming to the Forward, Mr. Ostroff had worked for nearly 30 years — the last 10 as executive vice president — of the United Housing Foundation, the nation’s largest builder of affordable cooperative housing. Under his leadership, the foundation created more than 30,000 units of affordable housing in New York City, including such iconic projects as Coop City, Penn South, Seward Park cooperatives, Rochdale Village and the Amalgamated Warbasse Houses in Brighton Beach. As general manager of the Forward Association, Ostroff oversaw two major fund-raising campaigns in the early 1980s that saved the Yiddish Forward. Yet, he was compelled, in 1983, to turn the daily founded in 1897 into a weekly publication. Then, in 1990, Mr. Ostroff took the most important step in reestablishing the Forward’s journalistic reputation, when he joined with respected Wall Street Journal editor Seth Lipsky to launch a separate weekly English paper. By the time he took over the Forward, Mr. Ostroff had already established himself as a pioneering leader in the construction of affordable housing. In the housing construction business in New York, his name was legendary. He took pride in the fact that he had made hundreds of agreements with a handshake, and had never been sued. According to a testament from the Cooperative Hall of Fame: There has been no more articulate voice on behalf of the American consumer than that of Ostroff, who brought the labor movement and cooperative movement together to achieve major accomplishments in cooperative housing, insurance and food stores. Ostroff has served as president of the Workman’s Circle. He also served on the boards of the Folksbiene Yiddish Theatre, the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, the National Yiddish Book Center, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, ORT, the Jewish Labor Committee, the National Committee for Labor Israel and the UJA-Federation of New York. Ostroff is survived by his daughter Madelon Braun, four grandchildren, four great-grandchildren, and his beloved best friend, Adrian Bernick.

NEXT STORY