Cohen Hillel Academy receives $5M gift

Cohen Hillel Academy, a K-8 Jewish independent school in Marblehead, received a $5 million donation from longtime benefactor Arthur J. Epstein, the largest contribution in its 62-year history.

MARBLEHEAD Local entrepreneur, investor and community leader Arthur J. Epstein has contributed $5 million to Cohen Hillel Academy, a Jewish independent school.

In recognition of the largest donation in its 62-year history, the school will be renamed the Arthur J. Epstein School this summer.

Epstein began his career with Midas Muffler in 1965. A partner in the real estate firm Cres Development, Epstein was also a member of several corporate boards including Malden Trust Co., now Eastern Bank, and Portland Glass.

As an angel investor, Epstein provided start-up money to new ventures including Panera Bread and Planet Fitness. A graduate of Boston University, Epstein invests in and advises new firms developed by student entrepreneurs at the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. More recently, Epstein has focused his attention on philanthropy.

“I’ve tried to make a difference with the time I have on earth,” said Epstein, in a statement. “People don’t realize how good it feels to give back. Well, I can tell them, it feels great.”  

Epstein supports numerous nonprofit organizations including Boston Children’s Hospital, the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, Massachusetts General Hospital, Combined Jewish Philanthropies, WGBH, North Shore Medical Center and Congregation Shirat Hayam in Swampscott.

Cohen Hillel’s Head of School, Amy Gold, said Epstein’s gift allows the school to continue offering a strong educational experience grounded in Jewish values.

“Arthur Epstein is widely recognized for providing leadership, wise counsel and support for nonprofit organizations that strengthen the community,” said Gold in a statement. “This significant contribution demonstrates Arthur’s belief in and commitment to maintaining an independent Jewish school for generations to come. We are extraordinarily grateful.”

Epstein’s connection to Cohen Hillel Academy began long before he set foot in the school. More than 30 years ago, Epstein met Bennett Solomon, a Brandeis University graduate student, who was leading a trip to Israel.

“I was impressed by Bennett’s character and his aspirations,” he said. “He understood the benefits and blessings of merging secular and Jewish education in a stimulating environment where children could learn, grow and thrive.”

Their friendship deepened when Solomon became the school’s principal in 1979.

Inspired by the school’s mission, vision and priorities, and to honor Solomon’s memory, Epstein has long supported Cohen Hillel Academy’s mission.

“I don’t invest in businesses or institutions, I invest in people, first Bennett and now Amy, the Hillel faculty and staff and the children,” he said.

A hands-on volunteer, Epstein was instrumental in establishing a building fund for the current site and spearheaded a committee to retire the school’s mortgage.

A Malden native and longtime Marblehead resident, Epstein lives in Brookline and Boca Raton, Florida. He is the father of three and grandfather of six.

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