Arizona Jewish Historical Society plans to honor four longtime Valley Jewish families – the Bendheims, Ecksteins, Mendelsohns and Newmarks – with its 2015 Heritage Award on Nov. 14. Each family’s heritage of giving to the community is a key piece of the “exceptional impact” that the award recognizes.
Honorees are Paul and Judith Bendheim, representing the Bendheims; Flo and Paul Eckstein and Diane and John Eckstein, representing the Ecksteins and the Newmarks; and Sue and David Rosen, representing the Mendelsohns.
As AZJHS notes, “The first of their family members arrived in the Valley in the 1920s and through the decades, the families have been instrumental in the fields of publishing, law, education, health, the arts, Jewish community service and philanthropy.”
Many core institutions in the Valley – both Jewish and non-Jewish – “have benefited from their contributions,” according to AZJHS. The list includes Arizona Jewish Historical Society, Center for Jewish Studies at Arizona State University, Jewish Family & Children’s Service, Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix, Jewish Free Loan, Jewish National Fund and Kivel Campus of Care, among many others.
The four families are all related – the Ecksteins are two brothers married to two Newmark sisters, Paul Bendheim is a cousin to the Eckstein brothers, and Sue Mendelsohn Rosen is a cousin to the Newmark sisters – and their histories are woven into the historical tapestry of the Valley’s Jewish community.
First Valley arrivals: Pearl Reiter arrived with her parents, Max and Sadie, in 1926. Future husband Cecil Newmark arrived in 1928. They married in 1938. Liese Lotte Eckstein arrived in 1944 with her two sons, Paul and John, while her husband, Albert, was away in the war.
Recipients: Flo and Paul Eckstein are former owners of Jewish News. Paul, a native of Fort Benning, Georgia, who moved to the Valley with his family in 1944, has been practicing law in Phoenix for 50 years with Perkins Coie and its predecessors. Flo, a Valley native, was the publisher of Jewish News for 32 years until retiring in 2013. She and Paul bought the community newspaper from her parents, Pearl and Cecil Newmark.
Paul serves on nonprofit boards including the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest, Phoenix Children’s Hospital and Pomona College, as well as having served as chair of the Arizona Rhodes Scholarship Nominating and Regional Selection Committees. Flo, a lifelong community volunteer, serves as a trustee of Arizona State University and a member of the Dean’s Investment Board at the ASU College of Public Service and Community Solutions. She is board president of the Camp Colley Foundation, which raises funds for the City of Phoenix’s sleep-away camp for underserved youths. She has been chairman of the city’s Parks and Recreation Board and a board member of the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix, ASU Alumni Association, Arizona Town Hall, Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest and American Jewish Press Association.
Recipients: Diane and John Eckstein were brought together by the marriage of their sister and brother, which was the beginning of the Newmark-Eckstein family connection.
John has been practicing medicine since 1974, when he joined his father’s internal medicine practice in Phoenix. In 1987, he joined the staff of Mayo Clinic when it opened in Scottsdale. He also has served as chairman of Community Internal Medicine and was on the Board of Governors for Mayo Clinic Arizona. In 1997, he received the first Distinguished Mayo Clinician award for physicians at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona.
Diane retired in 2003 from Family Counseling Center, a nonprofit that she co-founded and where she served clients as a clinical social worker for 20 years. Earlier in her career, she was a social worker at Jewish Family & Children’s Service in Phoenix.
Diane serves on the boards of Hospice of the Valley, the Center for Jewish Studies at ASU and the Arizona Jewish Historical Society, while John has served on the Board of Price Charities, and both Diane and John volunteer at Hospice of the Valley’s Eckstein Center. In 2012, the couple led a cross-country cycling and walking journey from San Diego to New York City, raising funds and visibility for Citizenship Counts, a nonprofit organization founded by Gerda Weissmann Klein.
First Valley arrivals: Otto Bendheim, a native of Germany, arrived in 1937. He was followed by his parents, Albert and Frieda, in 1938. A psychiatrist, he found work at the Arizona State Hospital, becoming superintendent in 1941. He met his future wife, Ronnie Newman, while serving in World War II. Otto’s sister, Liese Eckstein, moved to Phoenix to live with their parents while her husband was off to war.
Recipients: Paul and Judith (Yehudit) Bendheim met in Israel and were married in 2009. Judith was born in Jerusalem, while Paul is a Phoenix native, one of five children born to Otto and Ronnie Bendheim. Paul is a practicing neurologist and clinical professor of neurology at the University of Arizona College of Medicine - Phoenix. He serves as chairman and CEO of BrainSavers, America’s healthy brain company, which he founded to promote healthy brain aging. Previously, Paul was the Max Varon Visiting Professor at the Weizmann Institute. He helped found the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute at Good Samaritan Hospital. Judith was a practicing pharmacist in Israel until 2007, and in Phoenix, she is pursuing a second career as a ceramic and jewelry artist.
First Valley arrivals: Etta and Norman Mendelsohn came to Phoenix in 1933 with Etta’s father, Isaac Newmark, to join her two brothers, Cecil and Phil.
Recipients: Sue Mendelsohn and David Rosen married in Phoenix in 1962. Sue was born to Etta and Norman Mendelsohn in 1940. She met David, a native New Yorker who had moved to Phoenix in the late 1950s to make his mark in the legal profession (and, they say, “to find a nice Jewish bride”), after she graduated college. Soon after they married, Sue and David started a family and became active members of the Phoenix Jewish community. They led a community United Jewish Appeal mission to Israel in 1972 as well as a UJA family mission in 1978. David received the Young Leadership Award presented by Jewish Federation and became a member of the National UJA Young Leadership Cabinet.
David was co-chairman of Operation Israel to promote missions to Israel. He also served as chairman of the Hillel Advisory Council and on the boards of the Jewish Federation, Kivel Campus of Care, and Hillel at ASU.
Sue served as chair of Shalom Phoenix, an organization that greeted new arrivals to the Phoenix Jewish community. She also served on the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix board and has been an active member of Jewish Federation Women’s Division. In the 1980s, Sue worked as associate director of NARAL Arizona Right to Choose and worked with her cousin, Flo, in advertising sales at Jewish News.
These words barely scratch the surface of the contributions these families, in all their generations here, have made to the Phoenix Jewish community.
Who: The Arizona Jewish Historical Society
What: 2015 Heritage Award Gala: “It’s a Family Affair”
When: Saturday, Nov. 14; 6 p.m. reception and silent auction; 7:30 p.m. awards dinner and program
Where: The Arizona Biltmore, 2400 E. Missouri Ave., Phoenix
Cost: $200; sponsorship opportunities available
Contact: 602-241-7870 or visit azjhs.org.