The story of Charles Kaufman is an interesting one. I did not know him, nor did anyone at the shul ever mention his name to me. Stan knew every Jew in Carnegie, but I don’t believe he knew of Mr. Kaufman. I’m sure he would have told me if he did.
It’s fascinating to me to compare the difference between old and new lifestyles. Mr. Kaufman was a multi-millionaire, yet lived in a simple apartment. When he died, he left all his money ($50M) to foundations dedicated to the community good and the advancement of science. I am not surprised that he was living in Carnegie. It was not unusual to find hidden millionaires in our town. At one time there were many wealthy people in Carnegie, but you wouldn’t have known it from looking at their homes. They lived in modest little brick homes; their kids grew up sharing cramped bedrooms. I suppose their lifestyle was a result of growing up during the Depression. They knew what it was like to have little or nothing, and therefore, even when the economy was booming they were frugal— always anticipating that another Depression was right around the bend. Younger people today (including myself) are numbered among those who “knew not the Great Depression”. Those who have wealth are spending it on ostentatious homes, fancy cars, and lavish vacations. They will not have $50 million of spare change laying around to donate to a foundation, and if they did, they would leave it to their kids so that they too can have expensive homes and lavish vacations.
This is the nature of modern society. Success is measured by the amount of stuff you have, not the quality of the life you lived. We see it all around us. Even today for example: taxes on the wealthy are the lowest they’ve been in 50 years, falling from 91% during the Eisenhower administration to the current 35%. Yet the number one priority for our federal government is to reduce taxes for the richest Americans. I suppose it wouldn’t be such a big deal if all wealthy people were like Mr. Kaufman, giving back their wealth to the community when they died. But the fact is that people like Mr. Kaufman are becoming more rare each passing day, and our country will be poorer for it.
See the full story in the Post Gazette.