Submitted by: Jewish National Fund USA
Cincinnati residents Harold and Cynthia Guttman have been selected as the 2021 recipients of Jewish National Fund-USA’s (JNF-USA) prestigious Tree of Life Award for their exceptional contribution to the Jewish community and the land and people of Israel. The humanitarian award recognizes outstanding community involvement, professional leadership, and dedication to the cause of American-Israeli friendship with the devotion to peace and the security of human life.
The childhood sweethearts, now married forty-three years, grew up together in the same neighborhood. Both sets of parents and grandparents exposed them to philanthropy at a young age through their involvement with organizations like this one, as well as Hadassah, and The Jewish Federation. Harold and Cynthia’s grandfathers were also co-founders of two Cincinnati synagogues that are still thriving to this day.
“JNF-USA has been a part of our lives since we were young children. I remember being six years old and collecting stamps to plant trees in Israel,” said Cynthia Guttman. “However, our ‘sophisticated’ involvement began in the late 90s when we had the honor of hosting former prime minister Shimon Perez at our home for a private event. He held our two little boys on his lap in the middle of our living room, and that was a very special moment for us.”
“Since then, we’ve been to Israel about ten or twelve times and supported several projects in the Negev including the one thousand three hundred acre Be'er Sheva River Park — a world-class three hundred million dollar urban revitalization initiative that has turned what was once a massive junkyard into a lush greenway for pedestrians and bicyclists and, as importantly, a space for family celebrations and community festivals,” added Harold Guttman. “We’ve also dedicated a playground in honor of my mother and helped finance the construction of a critical bomb shelter to protect the residents of Sderot from enemy missile attacks. They are the organization that takes care of Israel.”
The Guttman’s continue to support the fund and other nonprofit organizations in hopes that their long history of charitable giving becomes a family tradition for generations to come.
“Cindy and Harold Guttman were chosen because they have been long time supporters and extremely philanthropic — both with our synagogue and with many organizations in Cincinnati,” said Event Co-Chair and National Vice President of Major Gifts, Nina Paul. “They are true Zionists who have raised six Zionist children and have many grandchildren who will be brought into the fold. They are relatively private people who don't need the limelight but realized the impact they would have in our fundraising efforts by becoming honorees. They, along with four other siblings, have come together with a very large pledge towards the restaurant kitchen at the Galilee Culinary Institute (GCI). It is my pleasure and honor to call them my friends and to work on behalf of JNF-USA to honor them.”
The couple will be celebrated at a virtual award reception on June 8, 2021 at 8:00 pm ET. The spectacular ceremony will feature an intimate dialogue with Emmy-award winning actor, director, producer, and author Henry Winkler and Academy-award winning actress, producer, and activist Marlee Matlin. The event will also feature a guest appearance by Lior Lev Sercarz, award-winning chef, cookbook author, spice blender and the Chief Culinary Officer and Co-Founder of GCI by JNF-USA, who will provide insight into the total-immersion culinary institution that is near and dear to the Guttman’s hearts.
“Our daughter is a chef who is very connected in the culinary world and we dedicated the kitchen in memory of Harold’s parents, Murray and Florence Guttman, who loved to cook and bake! Harold’s mother was a phenomenal Jewish cook, so this project in the north seemed very fitting for our family to support,” added Cynthia.
“Harold and Cynthia Guttman are staples of the Cincinnati Jewish community,” said Executive Director of Ohio Valley Eric Goldstein. “They join a long list of major players in our community that have received this award. Honoring this local couple was one of the easiest decisions we’ve made all year.”