Alan Goldsmith’s grandfather always taught him that if you want to give tzedaka, you put the money in an envelope and slip it under the door of the person in need without being seen.
Over the years, that philosophy has stayed with Goldsmith, founder and president of the Perth Amboy-based Jewish Renaissance Medical Center Foundation and its family of organizations. The network serves impoverished children and their families in Newark and Perth Amboy.
And yet, Goldsmith said, “others in the profession have told me you have to get it out there and receive recognition for what you have done — or how will your donors know what you’ve done?”
In a June 9 ceremony at the Newark Museum, Goldsmith got some of that unwanted attention when he was awarded a New Jersey State Governor’s Jefferson Award for Public Service.
Goldsmith was also recognized at the national awards ceremony in Washington, DC, the next week.
“I don’t think of it as my award as much as it is an award to all my agencies and all the good people who staff them,” said Goldsmith in a phone interview. “We see it as neighbors helping neighbors. ‘A life worth living is lived to help others’ is our credo.”
Founded in 1996, the center became the nation’s first-ever faith-based federally qualified health center, or FQHC, which serve underserved areas or populations.
Goldsmith, a former teacher who holds a doctoral degree in intercultural communication, said the center exemplifies his belief that it is a kiddush Hashem — a sanctification of God’s name — to help all people.
“We serve everybody no matter what race, religion, or creed,” he said. “We are all God’s children — although sometimes we don’t act like it.”
Goldsmith was nominated for the award — nicknamed “the Nobel Prize for public service” — by Newark Beth Israel Medical Center CEO and president Darrell Terry in recognition of the healthcare provided to city residents through Renaissance centers at seven Newark public elementary and high schools.
“We are the largest school-based health center in New Jersey,” said Goldsmith. “Although we are in schools, we serve the whole community providing dentistry, behavioral health, and internal medical services.”
The foundation has for 13 years sponsored a school-based youth program at Perth Amboy High School, providing counseling, mentoring, and crisis intervention programs. It also sponsors the Boys & Girls Club of Perth Amboy — including a Carteret unit of the club — and operates two state-of-the art mobile medical/dental vans equipped with two examining rooms, bringing care to the poorest neighborhoods in Middlesex County. In the summer it also services Camp Kiddie Keepwell, located in Roosevelt Park in Edison, for underprivileged youngsters in the county. Another van will begin making rounds in Newark next month.
The foundation’s main facility in Perth Amboy, the Jewish Renaissance Medical Center, provides adult and family medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, and dentistry, regardless of ability to pay.
“The funding comes from above; the Almighty helps us out a lot,” said Goldsmith, although he acknowledged the support of a lot of third-party grants and fund-raisers, including the Oct. 2 Renaissance gala at Liberty House in Jersey City.
“I always thought this is what being Jewish means,” said Goldsmith, a Perth Amboy native who now lives in Spotswood. “If you take those three words, ‘Love thy neighbor,’ and live them, you’ve accomplished all the positive commandments of the Ten Commandments.”