Al Jolson Home Page|The Man|Jolson's Legacy|Jolson's Will

Much has been said, and much has been written about the real Al Jolson. There are those who said he was selfish, arrogant, and shallow. Others knew him as generous, often giving money to those in need without being asked, without credit. In 1935, on his Shell Chateau radio program, Al introduced a song by Irving Berlin called "When I Leave The World Behind." In it, a man relates his legacy, such as it is, to the next generation. Not a millionaire, the man leaves simple yet meaningful gifts when he passes on. Well, Al did accumulate a good bit of material wealth during his career. It even became the butt of many jokes. But when he did leave the world behind, the depth and breadth of the organizations to which he left his fortune tell us volumes about the man, Al Jolson.

It should be noted that an estimate of Al Jolson's estate, in 1950, was some four million dollars. That would be equivalent, in 2007 currency, of about $35 Million.

Al Jolson took to heart the essential Jewish mandate of tikun olam, perfecting the world. It is a belief rooted in Jewish liturgy and practice to leave this world a better place than when you entered it, and from the variety of causes helped by Jolson's wealth, I think he helped significantly in completing this task. Here is a listing of the charities which benefited from bequests in Jolson's will. Wherever possible, I have provided web links to sites maintained by those charities or successors.

Hadassah honors Jolson's gift
Federation for the Support of Jewish Philanthropic Societies

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York

Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies of New York

Free Synagogue Child Adoption Committee

Hebrew National Orphan Home

Society of St. Vincent de Paul

Orphans Home and Asylum of Protestant Episcopal Church

Home for Aged and Infirm Hebrews of New York

New York Association for the Blind

Palestine Light House


Hebrew Sheltering and Immigrant Aid Society

American Red Cross

Memorial Hospital

Actors Fund of America

Columbia University

New York University

City College of New York

If you know of a site for any of the unlinked charities, or to correct any broken links, please Email me with the URL and I will be happy to update this page.
Thanks to Kevin Deevey for spotting Memorial Sloan Kettering as the old Memorial Hospital

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This listing and material Copyright © 1995-2014 Marc I. Leavey, M.D. Baltimore, Maryland
Updated 09 Aug 01
Updated 10 Oct 03
Updated 28 Oct 07
Updated 04 May 14