Canadian businessman, activist and philanthropist Paul (Moshe) Reichmann passed away this morning in Toronto at the age of 83.
Mr. Reichmann had been in poor health and wheelchair bound for the past several years.
Born to Samuel and Rene Reichmann in Vienna, Reichmann was the son of a successful Hungarian egg merchant. The Reichmann family narrowly escaped Nazi occupation, leaving Austria for Hungary on the day it was annexed by the Germans. Traveling first from Hungary to France, the Reichmanns finally settled in Tangier, where the senior Reichmann became a prosperous currency trader.
According to a New York Times article reporting on Anthony Bianco’s book, “The Reichmanns: Family, Faith, Fortune and the Empire of Olympia & York”, Reichmann’s mother sent thousands of packages of food to Auschwitz inmates and was responsible for having visas issued to several thousand Jews in Budapest.
After World War II, Reichmann studied in several yeshivos including Gateshead and the Mir in Jerusalem, leaving to become the educational director of Morocco’s Ozar Hatorah in 1953 at the request of Rabbi Avraham Kalmanowitz. Reichmann was instrumental in overhauling the curriculum of the school which served 1000 students and upgrading its staff. Reichmann also traveled all across the country creating additional schools for thousands of Jewish children in Morocco.
Reichmann’s married his wife Lea Feldman in 1953 and made his first foray into the business world that same year when he began selling shirts. The couple left Morocco in 1956 and traveled to New York, eventually settling in Toronto, soon to be joined by other family members.
In 1964, Reichmann and his three brothers founded their legendary property development firm Olympia and York, which built major financial complexes including the World Financial Center in New York and First Canadian Place in Toronto.
The Reichmanns were well known for their integrity and despite their financial success, they lived relatively modestly and never apologized for their religious observances, wearing yarmulkas openly and shutting down their construction sites on Shabbos and Jewish holidays.
Reichmann was once quoted as having told a relative, “What multiplied my initial success by a factor of a hundred had nothing to do with my own efforts. It was Hashem’s will that I was successful on such a scale.”
While Reichmann was forced to resign from Olympia and York after it went bankrupt in 1992 he successfully rebuilt a portion of his empire. Reichmann announced his retirement in 2005 at age 75 and just eighteen months later reversed his decision, setting up a $4 billion fund and new offices in Great Britain and the Netherlands.
Together with his brothers, Reichmann had a reputation for his generosity, donating hundreds of millions to yeshivos in Israel, Canada and the United States. While Reichmann was known for living relatively simply, he had a passion for collecting rare and valuable seforim.
Brooklyn, residence David Moscovits, who founded the Masores Avos American Endowment School, an institution that was funded substantially by the Reichmann family, had an extremely close relationship with Reichmann and remembered him warmly.
“If anyone would like to see an example of Torah, avoda and kiddush Hashem, this is what R’ Moshe was,” Dr. Moscovits told VIN news. “His eidelkeit, his neimus, his respect for another human being was indescribable. When it came to ahavas Hashem, avodas Hashem, he never stopped.”
The Funeral is said to take place this Motzi Shabbos 9:00 PM EST, in Toronto at Bais Yaakov Girls school - 15 Saranac st.