Gerard Daniel was born in Hamburg, Germany into a modern orthodox Jewish family. He attended a state recognized Jewish Gymnasium, Talmud Tora Oberrealschule. At the age of 18 he came to live in British ruled Palestine. There he met and then married Ruth Feilchenfeld, whose family had made Aliyah earlier from Berlin. They had two children, Ralph and Miriam, both born in Tel Aviv. In 1947 he joined, with his family, his only surviving brother in the U.S.
He and Ruth established a business manufacturing hi-tech filter media for numerous industrial usages, specifically in the aerospace industry. The company established factories in California, Europe and Asia, and was sold in 1986. Afterward they became involved in real estate in Florida.
Ruth and Gerard quickly became involved in liberal American Jewish causes. Gerard served as President of Larchmont Temple in Westchester County, New York, and Ruth was Temple Secretary. In 1980, Gerard was elected President of the World Union for Progressive Judaism and Ruth became its Treasurer. They served for two terms until 1988. In 1990, with their dedication to progressive Judaism and passion for Israel, Ruth and Gerard built a Reform Synagogue and Community Center in Tel Aviv, Beit Daniel, the first of its kind in Israel.
As an address for Israelis searching for a progressive and modern link to their Jewish identity, Beit Daniel quickly transformed into a vibrant community center offering holiday and Shabbat services, life cycle events, and a fresh approach to Jewish education. Beit Daniel’s achievements led the Daniel family to support the building of a Reform hostel and community center in Jaffa. Ruth did not live to see the completion of this large initiative; she died in June of 2006. But her dreams of bringing progressive Judaism into the lives of the Israeli society lives on, and the Jaffa Center, Mishkenot Ruth Daniel, is named in her honor.
Ruth, a person who lived her life to help others, dedicated much of her time to help underprivileged children. She worked tirelessly to help bring treatment to crippled children in Israel, became Life President of New Rochelle, N.Y. Day Care, and helped and worked often at a day care center in, Sarasota, Florida. Ruth was on the board of numerous organizations, among them the Jewish family services in New York and Florida, Sarasota-Manatee Jewish Federation, The Jewish Housing Council. For many years she chaired the Jewish Conciliation Board under New York Federation auspices. Her ardor and enthusiasm for social change touched the lives of many families, and her dedication to the movement allowed progressive Judaism to reach many people in Israel and in the world.
After his World Union presidency Gerard remained involved in furthering progressive Judaism in Israel. During his frequent trips to Israel he participated in many programs and organizational requirements. Beyond his congregational and World Union presidencies, he served on the board of the then Union of American Hebrew Congregations, Hebrew Union College, Westchester Jewish Federation, Sarasota-Manatee Jewish Federation, Sarasota Opera, Temple Beth Israel of Longboat Key, Florida, Sarasota Jewish Housing Council, and other local organizations. In 2010 the Mayor of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Ron Huldai, conferred upon him the tile of Honorary Citizen.
Gerard and Ruth’s children, Ralph and Miriam, and son-in-law Larry Wolff, continue to give the Daniel Centers of Tel Aviv their time, love, and dedication.
The Daniel family and friends have helped to create not just two buildings, but also a strong and vibrant community. Without their help, the growing presence of the Reform movement in Israel would not be the same.