The Gould Family Fund honors the relentless efforts of brothers Arnold and Bruce Gould and their beloved partners, Pearl and Karolyn, to improve the lives of others and to create a more just world through organizing, advocacy, and public policy.

LA Forward strives to keep their legacy alive in all it does.

  • Treating every human being with dignity.

  • Working tirelessly to reach people across diverse communities and to befriend, mentor, and empower them as leaders.

  • Never being afraid to speak up for what’s right.

  • Fighting for policies carefully designed to make a difference in the everyday lives of real people.

The work of justice is the work of millions of unsung heroes, laboring without much attention or reward. The Gould family’s story is one of these stories and one that ultimately led to the formation of LA Forward. 

The Story

Arnold and Bruce Gould were born to George Goldenberg and Sadye Goldenberg in 1922 and 1928 respectively. George immigrated to New York City from Odessa as a child with his family around 1900. Relatively affluent thanks to a grain transport business, they fled anti-Semitic persecution and pogroms, paying off border guards and losing their life savings in the process, as they crossed to the port city of Hamburg, Germany.

One of seven siblings, George began selling newspapers as a small boy and served in the U.S. Army during the European battles of WWI. He eventually earned enough money through various ventures to open his own ladies coat manufacturing operation, Fairchild. He secured a contract to produce coats for refugees and then delivered a much nicer product than he the one he used to win the contact in the first place. His factory was an ILWGU-union shop. His was one of the first operations to hire a Puerto Rican person in the skilled and relatively well-paid position of a cutter. He was a lifelong writer of letters to The New York Times.

Sadye Berkowitz immigrated with her family as child from Czernowitz (in what's now western Ukraine), similarly fleeing a rising tide of anti-Semitism. She was a legendarily kind and warm person who made impressive accomplishments in all the community work she did. She served on the board of the Hebrew Home for the Aged in the Bronx. During WWII, received a commendation from Eleanor Roosevelt for her work to sell war bonds.

Arnold and Bruce grew up in this ambitious and community-minded home, first in duplex they shared with other family members in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn and then in a West Bronx apartment building. Sadie dreamed of Arnold becoming a doctor and when he was a freshman at NYU, his advisor warned that it would be difficult to enter medical school due to discrimination and quotas against Jews. So his parents changed his and 12 year-old Bruce’s last name to Gould. (As if a NYU student from the Bronx named Arnold Gould wouldn’t arouse any suspicions!) 

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As the U.S. war against Nazism commenced in 1942, Arnold enlisted in the U.S. Army served as a medic with the 777th Tank Battalion. He saw the horrors of war up close —  struggling to take care of the wounded and dying the best he could, given limited supplies and training. He earned a Bronze Star for heroically diving into the burning wreckage a tank to save his men. And he participated in the liberation of two Nazi concentration camps.

After the war in Europe and the Pacific ended, Arnold returned to New York, marrying his sweetheart, Pearl Garfunkel, and making a life together, her as a public school teacher and him as a salesman for his father’s company. When Pearl fell ill in the late 1950s and Arnold knew he would have to take care of their two kids alone, he managed to complete a masters’ degree in education in less than 18 months. He took over Pearl’s teaching job merely weeks after she died in August 1959.

Arnold went on to spend many years teaching in the impoverished Brownsville community and working as a guidance counselor throughout Brooklyn, dedicating himself unreservedly to the children there while also serving as the union rep at his school.

Upon retiring in the early 1980s, Arnold embarked upon a third career – this one unpaid. In 1979, he and his new wife, Pearl Dinin Gould, co-founded what would become the Queens/Nassau chapter of the National Alliance for the Mental Illness. Seeing the limited resources available for people with severe mental health issues, including his son, Arnold began three decades of relentless organizing to counter stigma, to offer community to the relatives of people coping with illness, and to pass legislation that would provide supportive policies and resources. He succeeded in getting New York State to pass a mental health insurance parity law and attended the signing. After President Reagan de-institutionalized care for the mentally ill but failed to actually fund community-based services, Arnold fought ceaselessly to get the resources needed, from services to affordable housing to universal health care.

After leading NAMI Queens/Nassau for many years, he ended up serving on and inevitably being asked to lead the boards of myriad other nonprofits — NAMI NY State, the Mental Health Association of Nassau County, Central Nassau Guidance & Counseling, Venture House and Connections Clubhouses, and Pilgrim Psychiatric Center Board of Visitors. He became the go-to resource for anyone looking for help for their mentally ill friend or relative in the entire region. He was leading source of information on policy and administration and he masterfully knew how to build relationships and get things done.

One story from his tenure as President of Pilgrim Psychiatric Centric shows his essential nature. He had a key and the right to visit at any time and he used that to seek justice, fearlessly. He would come over, without notice, without giving the staff time to put on a show, and look for the real, on-going problems. He would go into the bathrooms and ask the staff why there was no toilet paper. He refused to settle for excuses. His position as President wasn’t to boost his ego, but to hold those in power responsible to the highest of standards.

In all of this work he was joined by wife of 38 years, the former Pearl Dinin, whom he married in 1975 after both had lost their spouses. Pearl was one of the five Wender sisters. They lived well in Yonkers, until the Great Depression struck and their family lost everything they had, and were forced to move back in with relatives in Brooklyn. Pearl attended Brooklyn College and soon married Sam Dinin. Sam came from a family of furriers and he carried on the left-wing politics of that union in all his work. A talented artist, he was an early member of the Film and Photo League. He entered the Army and together, Sam and Pearl moved to Ohio and then Los Angeles, eventually working on the Why We Fight films as a photographer. Pearl completed her Masters degree at Queens College and began teaching kindergarten and first grade in NYC public schools, with a pioneering commitment to racial equality and multiculturalism before, during, and after the schools were integrated.

Bruce entered college at Washington and Jefferson College in 1944, even as he constantly corresponded with his brother. In 1947, he graduated and then began at Columbia Law School, because, he told his children, he wanted to “pursue justice.” He joined the National Lawyers Guild for the same reason, seeking to fight for the civil rights and liberties of all people. Drafted into the Army for the Korean War, Bruce returned to NYC and married his long-time sweetheart, Karolyn Richman. Karolyn worked for CARE, creating the international agency's initial technical assistance program as a complement to its food program. She was involved with the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) as Head Start Coordinator for New York City, and joint developer of New York City's Family Day-Care Program. Bruce began his career as a tenants rights attorney, representing people on the far eastside of Manhattan who were being pushed out of their apartments, as well as a leader of the 1965 Harlem Rent Strike.

Together they became extremely active in the Reform Democratic movement, becoming leaders in the Lennox Hill Democratic Club to create a more liberal and democratic politics in New York. Karolyn successfully won election to represent her Assembly District in 1962, defeating the Tammany Hall machine candidate.

Bruce steadily worked his way through the ranks of public servants — from representing tenants, he moved to housing research and advocacy as an analyst with the NY Community Service Society. He joined the Department of Housing Preservation and Development and after a number of years, became its General Counsel. Among his proudest accomplishments were measures that strengthened not only the requirements for the livability of rental housing, but also the enforcement mechanisms. He believed that all owners, not just “slumlords,” should experience the pressure of enforcement. He put in a place a policy that removed rental income if significant violations of housing code were not corrected within six months. At the same time, he worked to make sure all stakeholders understood the real costs involved in operating and maintaining rental housing, including tenants and their advocates.

In the 1980s, he was appointed to be a Judge in the Housing Court. There he scrupulously sought to pursue fair outcomes and fashioned workable solutions for the tenants and landlords who came before him. He pioneered the use of computers in the courtroom, so judges could rely on the most recent and accurate information in their decision-making.

After retiring from the court, he began a work-intense, lightly compensated position as a guardian ad litem who representing the interests of those unable to represent themselves in housing court. Long into his 80s, he stood out as a luminary of the housing bar, looked to for wisdom from other judges and attorneys. No coincidence, just like his brother, Bruce took the time to go far beyond passing legislation (although he did plenty of that) to actually inquire into the on-the-ground circumstances, the lived reality of housing. Whether that meant leading a delegation to housing sites as a judge and seeking mutually beneficial deals or working overtime as a guardian ad litem to coax his clients and the various government bureaucracies to reach the best outcome possible. Even in his final months of life, he was plotting how to improve New Yorkers' housing through new policies and programs to enforce renters’ rights.

Karolyn’s career was similarly impressive. She served as founder, board member, staff or consultant to numerous national and local non-government agencies for programs for the disadvantaged, including New York City's Agenda for Children Tomorrow (ACT) Oversight Committee, Jobs for Youth, National Committee on the Employment of Youth, the National Committee on the Education of Migrant Children, the Committee for Economic Development, and the Bronx Museum of the Arts. From 1978 through 2000, she contributed support the South Bronx community as director of human services and then director with the South Bronx Development Organization. She then became associate director of the Independent Living Resource Center at Hunter College School of Social Work, and a leading advocate for developing adolescents in foster care in the city, state and nationally.

Together, these people enriched the lives of thousands directly and millions through their policy work. They had a simple, unshakeable commitment to justice, to doing what was right in the interactions of everyday life and the government institutions that shaped the lives of so many people. Living up to their example is no easy feat. But like they knew, the best thing is just to get started and keep going. They resisted injustice and worked daily for a better world. Our lives and our world are so much better for their loving efforts.

Learn more:

Arnold: Obituary

Pearl: Obituary

Bruce: Obituary

Karolyn: Obituary

 

Articles about Bruce's Work:

Articles about Karolyn's work

 

The Organization Founded by Arnold and Pearl:

 

Archives

  • Arnold’s papers on mental health advocacy are available at Hofstra University.

  • Bruce and Karolyn’s Lennox Hill Democratic Club records are housed at Columbia University. 

  • Bruce's extensive housing papers are available at LaGuardia Community College.

 

Contact us if you're interested in learning more.

 
 

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