Tova Leidesdorf


By Aaron Glickman

“When I get involved in a cause it is all the way. I give it 110 percent and I always laugh and tell the people that you own me body and soul,” says Tova Leidesdorf, one of Miami’s grandest figures.

Tova is currently giving body and soul by serving as Luncheon Chairman for the Alzheimer’s Care Committee/NOTABLES 21st Annual Potamkin Luncheon to Remember to be held on April 12th at the Miami Beach Resort & Spa. This year is especially important to Tova since the luncheon is dedicated in loving memory of Carolyn Miller.

Born and raised in the culturally diverse atmosphere of Haifa, Israel, Tova developed empathy for the needy, the sick and the poor. At age 19, she was crowned Miss Israel and represented her country as she traveled throughout Israel and the world. These travels brought her to the United States as a speaker for United Jewish Appeal, Israel Bonds and many other organizations. It was through one of these speeches that she met and married late philanthropist, Arthur Leidesdorf whose father was one of the creators of United Jewish Appeal.

“Arthur was a great man. He was so generous,” remembers Tova. “I learned a lot from Arthur and his father Sam. Above all, I learned the importance of giving.”

Around the world, the Leidesdorf family name evokes an air of compassion, commitment and generosity. Arthur and Sam are remembered for helping to create the Israeli Bonds program, assisting with the establishment of the United Negro College Fund, helping to build the 92nd Street Y, bringing Albert Einstein to America, creating the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton, the Coalition between Christians and Jews among many other accomplishments. Sam Leidesdorf’s accounting firm, S.D. Leidesdorf & Co. is today known as Ernst & Young.

To recognize the Leidesdorf family’s long and rich history of philanthropy, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani renamed four streets in Manhattan, between East 30th Street and East 34th Street, Samuel "Sam" D. Leidesdorf Way.

Arthur and Tova carried on Sam’s legacy and gave multiple political and charitable fundraisers at their homes in Palm Beach and New York City. Princess Diana and Prince Charles are among the list of luminaries who have been their guests of honor.

Today, Tova not only continues the Leidesdorf philanthropic legacy, but she has firmly entrenched herself in the South Florida community. “I love Miami,” she says. “It is a city with such life!”

Tova is an active supporter of various organizations, including Adopt-A-Classroom, Alzheimer’s Care Committee at Douglas Gardens, Ben-Gurion University, Canine Companions For Independence, City of Hope, Concert Association of Florida, Florida Grand Opera, the Humane Society, the Cat Network, Miami Ballet, Mt. Sinai, Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, The American Red Cross, Southeastern Guide Dogs For The Blind, United Jewish Appeal, Zoological Society of Florida and many more. She is listed in the Smithsonian Institute's "Who's Who in the Form of Creativity," along with Oprah Winfrey and Barbara Walters. In March 2004, the women's business and career publication, SHE INK magazine, selected her as one of the "Fifty Most Powerful Women in America."

Out of all the galas and fundraisers that Tova has attended, two stand out in her mind as the best. “The Love and Hope Ball was a wonderful event,” she says. “Diabetes is a horrible disease and I will do whatever I can do to help find a cure.”

The recent “Destination Fashion, Women of Substance and Style” event to benefit The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis, the national fundraising arm of The Miami Project, is the other event that was special to Tova. “What they did at the Bal Harbour Shops was unbelievable. I have been to events all over the world – New York, Los Angeles, London, Paris – never had I been to an event that was that well done. I chose Miami Police Chief John Timoney to be my celebrity presenter. He escorted me down the fashion runway as I received my award. He is a wonderful man who works hard everyday to protect us. I was honored to have him be with me on such a special evening.”

And Tova knows the value of protection. Like all Israelis, Tova served her country as a soldier. “All young people should serve in the military,” she proclaims. “It should be mandatory in this country. The military teaches self-esteem and achievement, and those qualities are what life is about.”

Tova is clearly a woman with great self-esteem, and her achievements are known throughout the community and the world. Hard work is very important to Tova and she prides herself on the fact that she does not merely donate money, but donates her time as well. The Leidesdorf family name carries great weight and Tova honors the legacy of her powerful heritage everyday.

For more information about Tova’s latest philanthropic endeavor – the Alzheimer’s Care Committee/NOTABLES, contact NOTABLES Founder and Chairperson Bella Goldstein, President Mickey Dworkin or Development Officer Ricki Diamond at 305.751.8626, extension 2295 or by email at rdiamond@mjhha.org.