Henry Taub, 1927-2011
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Henry Taub, 1927-2011

Community mourns a 'gentle man'

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The philanthropist Henry Taub with his wife, Marilyn, on a bridge at the Passaic River’s Great Falls in Paterson in 2010. Taub, who died at 83, was the founder of Automatic Data Processing and a passionate supporter of Israel and Jewish causes. Courtesy the Taub family.

Henry Taub, a Paterson junk dealer’s son who achieved success and wealth but never forgot his roots, was remembered Sunday for his humility and generosity before some 800 mourners.

“He was an aidel mensch,” said Rabbi emeritus Bruce Block at Temple Sinai in Tenafly. He was “a gentleman – a gentle man in every sense of those Yiddish words,” the rabbi said.

Taub, 83, the founder of what was to become Automatic Data Processing, America’s largest independent computer service company, serving clients around the world, died at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York last Thursday after a long illness.

“There are so many people whom Henry Taub touched, and we are only a fraction of them,” Rabbi Jordan Millstein, religious leader at Temple Sinai, told the mourners who filled it. “Henry Taub planted and built for us so that we might prosper and find blessing.”

The son of Morris Taub, who until the 1960s could still be seen on his horse-drawn cart on Paterson’s streets, Henry got his early lessons in their immigrant, working-class neighborhood around Carroll Street. The elder Taub emigrated from Poland in the early 1920s. He began his junk business after being laid off as a weaver during the Depression and acknowledged in a 1967 interview in the now-defunct Paterson Morning Call that he no longer had to work, but it made him “feel better” to go out.

In later life Henry Taub never forgot his Silk City roots, giving generously to Paterson causes. A subtle salute to that fact was offered in the form of an escort by a contingent of Paterson motorcycle policemen for the funeral cortege to Cedar Park Cemetery in Paramus.

He founded the Paterson Alumni Foundation, which was subsequently merged into the Paterson Education Fund, organizations committed to improving the schools and education system in Paterson. He also helped to establish the “I Have a Dream” program at School No. 6 in Paterson and created the Business Employment Foundation in that city, which placed more than 1,000 people in jobs.

Taub got his first job in a grocery store at 12, and worked his way through high school. Having skipped grades and finishing college in three years, he earned a degree from New York University in 1947 and began his career humbly, as an accountant in an office above a luncheonette.

In 1949, a client missed a payroll because the clerk responsible became sick. This set off a light bulb in the mind of the young accountant, who realized he could provide a payroll service to companies. He began personally delivering payroll checks by bus. The company was known as Automatic Payrolls Inc.

As the business slowly grew, Taub was joined by his brother, Joe, and a young insurance salesman, now senator, Frank Lautenberg. Lautenberg’s job was to sell the service to other companies.

Lautenberg recalled those early years at Sunday’s service, telling of seven-day weeks and long days. A key year was 1961, Lautenberg said, when the company went public amid the blossoming of the computer age.

“I was looking forward to the 50th anniversary,” Lautenberg said. “I think we should still celebrate that.”

Lautenberg left the company after being elected to the Senate in 1982. A certain name recognition helped, he said. “People didn’t know Frank Lautenberg, but they knew ADP,” he said.

The company is based in Roseland and has some 550,000 clients worldwide and 42,000 employees. Most recently, Taub served as honorary board chairman.

Taub was direct in his dealings, but ran his affairs with a human touch, said Block. He was “intelligent, innovative, but he had something else – wisdom,” the rabbi said. “Henry knew how to lead. Hire the best people, let them do their jobs, and cheer them on.”

Block acknowledged the role of Taub’s wife, Marilyn, citing the adage that behind every good man is a good woman. “You were beside Henry,” he said to her at the service.

“He was an inspiration to anyone who knew him,” Lautenberg said. “He respected others for what they were, not what they had.”

Taub’s philanthropy was channeled through the Henry and Marilyn Taub Foundation and his legacy includes the Taub Center for Israel Studies at New York University, the Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s and the Aging Brain at Columbia University, and the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel. A trustee of NYU, he was honored with its Madden award.

At the American Technion Society, which helps support the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, he served as president from 1974 to 1976 and was on the board of governors from 1990 to 2003. Technion, Hebrew University, and Ben-Gurion University awarded him honorary degrees.

He had also served as president and board chairman of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (1981-1986) and in a similar capacity with the United Israel Appeal (1986-1990), as well as on the boards of the Rite-Aid Corp.; Hasbro, Inc.; Bank Leumi and Trust Co. of New York; Interfaith Hunger Appeal; and The New York Shakespeare Festival/Public Theater.

Locally, Taub was a major benefactor of the UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey and the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades.

Those who worked with Taub recalled his particular blend of qualities. Among them is Howard Charish, formerly executive vice president of the UJA-NNJ.

“He was on the cutting edge of thinking and doing,” said Charish, now an executive with the American Friends of Bar Ilan University in Israel. He recalled a “get-acquainted” session with Taub, at which “Henry said, ‘No matter what the issue is, Howard, you’ll never see my ego on the table.”

“He read everything that was sent to him,” Charish said. “Meetings with him were direct, analytical. He wanted facts. It forced you to think.”

Leon Sokol worked with Taub as co-chairman of the Synagogue Leadership Initiative, under the auspices of the UJA-NNJ. The program worked to provide expert advice and leadership to help area congregations thrive, Sokol said.

“Henry understood that synagogues were the anchors in the Jewish community,” Sokol said. “Henry was hands-on. He chaired the steering committee. He was very involved.”

“He was always a gentleman, very kind and committed to the Jewish community,” Sokol continued.

Taub’s unobtrusive touch was evident when he was a part owner of the New Jersey Nets and served for a time as its chief executive officer. He stayed out of the locker room, notably entering once to congratulate players on making the playoffs.

Taub’s children gave the gathering a glimpse of his personal side.

“Dad was a selfless man, always thinking of others, not himself,” said son Ira. In some ways he was a simple man, who always traveled light, Ira Taub said, drawing laughter when he recalled seeing his father rinse out socks and underwear in a hotel sink.

Simple things gave him pleasure, the son continued. “He had a passion for sports,” he said, and was a fan of Janis Joplin.

Henry Taub’s daughter, Judith Gold, also drew laughter, recalling how her father helped her with an English paper. When she brought the paper home, with a grade of D, her father said: “Your teacher’s wrong and she doesn’t know anything.”

She told of asking for an allowance. Her father, ever the accountant, said, “Let’s see your budget.” She recalled meals together, laughter, and conversations.

“This was dad’s true legacy – family,” she said.

The days in the hospital during Taub’s illness were recalled by his son Steven, who said his father connected personally with the hospital staff – doctors, nurses, aides, cleaning people. “He greeted them daily with a smile,” Steven Taub said. “Dad had perspective,” he added.

Even though his father did not suffer from the disease, he donated his brain to Alzheimer’s research, his son said. The family had debated as to how this might conform to Jewish law.

“Nothing can be more Jewish than to help alleviate the suffering of others,” the son quoted his father as saying.

Along with everything else he was, Taub was a grandfather, and his grandchildren came together at the microphone to take turns reading a tribute they wrote jointly. They spoke of “memories filled with fun, laughter, and joy…. He loved to make us smile and laugh…. He was just as passionate about playing with us as he was about work.”

Lautenberg ended his tribute on a poignant note.

As the end neared, the senator, at the hospital, faced a dilemma. He was needed in Washington for a critical vote, but “I didn’t want to leave my friend’s side.”

As Lautenberg related, Taub’s son Steven put it in perspective with the question: “What do you think my father would want you to do?”

“I left for Washington,” the senator said, adding, “You didn’t have to be a Taub to love Henry – I loved Henry.”

He is survived by his wife Marilyn; his brother Joseph Taub (and his wife Arlene); his daughter Judith Gold (and her husband Ronald); his sons Steven (and his wife Benay) and Ira (and his wife Shelley); and grandchildren Samantha, Jessica, and Evan Gold, Matthew, Eliana, Joshua, and Sarah Taub, and Sydney, Alex, and Julia Taub.

Arrangements were by Louis Suburban Chapel in Fair Lawn.

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