Carl Lindner Jr., major non-Jewish donor to Jewish causes, dies

Carl Lindner Jr., one of the largest non-Jewish donors to the organized Jewish community in the United States, has died.

Lindner, a successful corporate financier and devout Christian, died Oct. 17 at the age of 92.

Beginning in the late 1960s, Lindner quietly became the largest non-Jewish donor in the country to the United Jewish Appeal campaign, which was the predecessor of today’s Jewish Federations of North America, according to the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati. In recognition of his generosity, in 1978 he was named the Man of the Year by the United Jewish Appeal.

Lindner, who delivered milk door to door during the Depression and went on to become a billionaire, also was named a recipient of the Tree of Life Award for the Jewish National Fund, and was recognized as the largest non-Jewish purchaser of Israel Bonds.

“I don’t share your religion, but I share your faith,” Lindner once said at a major dinner in the Cincinnati Jewish community in his honor.

In 1991, the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati honored Lindner at a fundraising dinner for Naharia, a poor development town in Israel, which at the time was the sister city of Cincinnati’s Jewish community. Lindner contributed $1 million of the $3 million goal, and persuaded a friend and business partner to contribute the remaining $2 million.

Lindner was honored in 2004 by Jewish leaders from across America to thank him for his longtime support of Israel Bonds. Supporters raised $71.5 million at the dinner, of which Lindner purchased $5 million. At the dinner he said that an early loan from the English financier Sir Isaac Wolfson inspired him to never forget his gratitude to the Jewish people for helping him get his start in the world of finance.

Lindner was board chairman of the American Financial Group, a major financial services company he founded in 1959. At one time he was a minority owner of the Cincinnati Reds baseball team and its chief executive officer.

He dropped out of school at age 15, during the Depression, to deliver milk while attending high school classes at night. He later transformed his milk delivery business into what is now United Dairy Farmers.

A major philanthropist centered in the Cincinnati area, Lindner also donated his time and business acumen to many Cincinnati educational, religious, cultural and civic organizations.