Ida Newman, 102

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Just shy of celebrating her 102nd birthday, Ida Newman, a well-known philanthropist in Philadelphia, passed away on the morning of Nov. 22.

While her contributions will continue to leave a mark on the community, her family will remember her for the pureness out of which these gifts came.

“They never sought acclaim or a pat on the back,” said Bud Newman, president of Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, of his aunt and her husband, Milton. “They did what they did out of pure heart, there was nothing but absolute altruism.”

Newman learned many lessons from his aunt, whom he referred to as the “matriarch of the family,” including tolerance and taking each day as it comes, just as she had done.

“I learned how to be tolerant, how to not be spontaneous, but to listen to other people and to take the good out of what they had to say or what they’re doing that I may not have been in agreement with,” he said.

“My aunt was a great example of a woman who had strength and fortitude and an outlook that was superb,” he continued. “She always had a positive outlook, always had a view that that you wake up in the morning and whatever comes your way,” you deal with it and make the most out of life.

Newman was born on Dec. 24, 1913, and raised in the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood of Philadelphia. She was one of four children, the eldest and only girl.

Ida married Milton Newman in 1940 and in 1946 they had a daughter, Ann, who died at 38. Shortly after Ann was born, she underwent successful surgery to correct a congenital heart defect, the first successful procedure of its kind.

The surgery was performed at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and ultimately inspired the Newmans to create an annual scholarship in 1986 to support the research of a CHOP pediatric cardiology fellow. To date, the scholarship has been awarded to 29 fellows, and the program is endowed to do so in perpetuity.

Milton and Ida dedicated the Ann Newman preschool at Temple Sinai Synagogue in Dresher and they funded construction of new college classrooms on the Mandell campus of Gratz College in Elkins Park.

They also endowed a permanent annual scholarship at Barnard College — where Ann went for her undergraduate studies — in Ann’s memory, affording students the opportunity to take a semester abroad through the School of Liberal Arts. The scholarship has been awarded to 27 students and bestowed in excess of $2 million.

The Newmans established the Ann Newman String Quartet at The Settlement Music School in Wynnefield in 1988, a scholarship program for 13- to 18-year-old students pursuing pre-professional ensemble training.

As Ida enjoyed painting and ceramics, she and Milton chose to support capital improvements to the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1989.

In honor of their gift, the museum dedicated the Ann Newman Gallery of American Art. Ida was also a Cornerstone Founder supporting construction and endowment of the Kimmel Center.

The Newmans underwrote the Ann Newman Maternity Center at the Albert Einstein Medical Center, and they also joined the Legacy Society of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia in 1989 by making provisions in their estate plans.

Also in 1989, The Milton and Ida Newman Foundation developed and sponsored the Literacy Enrichment After-School Program at The Free Library of Philadelphia, which provides homework assistance, computer literacy, and library skills for students among other services.

Despite her centenarian status, Ida Newman had a “frighteningly good” memory, Bud Newman recalled.

She will be remembered by her family as a loving aunt who adored her family, had an affinity for the arts, never forgot a name, gave strong, solid advice and — leading by example — taught everyone humanity, kindness and compassion.

Bud Newman’s daughter, Rachel Newman Schwartz, wrote that “Aunt Ida” loved to give her family art pieces or other trinkets she thought would have meaning for them, and she was always there to offer advice.

“Most of all,” she wrote, “she has given all of us the rare gift of knowing someone who lived 101 healthy, fulfilled, staggeringly generous years.”

The information provided comes from the family.

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