Renowned Jewish philanthropist and artist displays sculpture
Harold Grinspoon’s sculpture “Twister” was added to the collection of art on campus this year.
The newest addition to Brandeis’ campus is a striking and meaningful art piece by Harold Grinspoon. The sculpture is located between the Shapiro Campus Center and the Admissions building. It was installed in mid-July 2021, according to an article on the Brandeis Alumni, Friends, and Families website.
In addition to his work in the sphere of Jewish philanthropy, Grinspoon is a sculptor. He began sculpting around 7 years ago. The focus of his work is nature, specifically trees.
Describing his artistic process, a Tablet Magazine article says “he searches out dead, leafless, trunks of trees from the woods, quarters them, refinishes or paints the boughs, and reconstitutes the large scale structures in his own way. He then places the sculpture back on its feet in nature for a second life.” This is exactly how his sculpture called “Twister” came to stand near the Admissions building on the University’s campus. “Twister” is a part of his tree series collection and was inspired by a tornado that occurred near Grinspoon’s home in Massachusetts, described the Brandeis article on the art piece.
When the tornado caused a tree to fall in his backyard, his “whole perception of life, morality, immortality, beauty and form” was changed.
Grinspoon’s other sculptures are scattered around, one on view at Massachusetts General Hospital, another at Kent State University. On the subject of art, Grinspoon told Brandeis that “art has ultimately been the gift that unlocked more understanding than I could have imagined.”
Grinspoon has spent much of his life in real estate development, but after retiring he entered the sphere of philanthropy, specifically in the Jewish community.
To understand Grinspoon’s identity as an artist and philanthropist, it is important to explore the journey that brought him to his current status.
Grinspoon was born in Newton, Massachusetts in 1929 to a Jewish family, according to the Harold Grinspoon Foundation website.
In the 1960’s, he began his real estate career by buying a family home, fixing it and renting it out. This one purchase was followed by many more and eventually Grinspoon founded his property management and real estate investment company—Aspen Square Management. According to an article in Tablet magazine, Aspen Square Management is “one of the top 50 privately held property investment and management firms in the U.S.”
Grinspoon’s success as a businessman and real estate investor allowed him to thrive as a philanthropist. In an interview with Business West, he explained that while money enabled him to help organizations and movements he is passionate about, his motivation stemmed from personal experience.
As a child, Grinspoon’s encounters with antisemitism were all too common and extremely harsh, explains his biography on the Grinspoon foundation's website. He was called “Jew boy,” “Christ killer” and many other antisemitic slurs.
Despite his experience with antisemitism, Grinspoon’s Jewish identity has always played an impactful role in his life. He “credits his Jewish heritage and the values of Judaism” for many of his accomplishments, according to his biography.
Some years after he became financially set, Grinspoon met Diane Troderman and together they began their journey of Jewish philanthropy—devoting their “energy and wealth to helping the Jewish people out” as Grinspoon said in a private video from 2014.
In his interview with Tablet magazine, he explained that individuals with wealth should “find a home for their wealth—where they feel good about giving and what’s meaningful to them.” To Grinspoon and his wife, the home for their wealth is the Jewish community.
Grinspoon’s love and connection to the Jewish community is what motivates his identity as a philanthropist, but legacy also plays a role. During Grinspoon’s battle with tongue cancer, he realized that he wanted a meaningful legacy, Tablet magazine explains.
His foundation, the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, was established in 1991 with a mission to “enhance Jewish and community life around the world,” per the foundation’s website. The website also outlines multiple initiatives that the foundation began under its umbrella—the North American Grinspoon Awards for Excellence in Jewish Education, the Entrepreneurship Initiative, the Pioneer Valley Excellence in Teaching Awards, Jcamp, PJ Library, Voices and Visions, Life and Legacy and most recently the Local Farmer Awards.
Out of this list of impactful initiatives, PJ Library is the one that stands out to Jewish individuals around the world, says Tablet magazine. “PJ Library sends free Jewish children's books to families across the world every month” in order to introduce and expose Jewish children to the “colorful world of Jewish history, tradition, and values,” the PJ Library website explains.
Grinspoon continues to take an active role in the Harold Grinspoon Foundation and in the realm of Jewish philanthropy, as well as making art.