Past Honorees

At Central Synagogue

Isaac Stern
1989 Violinist and Philanthropist

Isaac Stern (1920-2001) was an Ukranian born, internationally revered violinist, conductor, and philanthropist. His many honors include 6 Grammy Awards, Kennedy Center Honors, the National Medal of Arts, Gold Medal of the Royal Philharmonic Society, and a street named after him in Tel Aviv.

Barely more than a year after he was born, Stern’s family moved to San Francisco. His musical career began when he enrolled at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in 1928, and his public debut took place at the young age of 15, with the San Francisco Symphony. During his long and illustrious musical career, he collaborated with many other musicians, such as Russian pianist Alexander Zakin, who he performed with from 1940 to 1977. In the 1960s and 1970s Stern also performed with Eugene Istomin and Leonard Rose in their award-winning chamber music trio.

His musical career spanned many countries and continents. Stern performed in Israel many times, including for troops during the Six Day and Yom Kippur wars. Investing in Israel’s future, he was a firm supporter of educational projects in Israel, including the America-Israel Foundation and the Jerusalem Music Center. Stern also received an unprecedented invitation to perform around the country by the People’s Republic of China in 1979, not long after the Cultural Revolution ended and the doors to the outside world were opened. Along with pianist and fellow American David Gollub, he collaborated with the China Central Symphony Society (which is now the China National Symphony). The Academy Award winning documentary, From Mao to Mozart: Isaac Stern in China, was based on film taken during this historic visit.

Mr. Stern was also very active in supporting and encouraging new musical talent. He sought out and promoted young artists, such as the cellist Yo-Yo Ma and violinist Itzhak Perlman. Similarly, in 1960 he safeguarded many future musical performances and careers when he saved Carnegie Hall from being torn down. Stern organized the committee to save the landmark building and preserve its use as a musical venue. His efforts were successful, and New York City was allowed to purchase the hall and set up the Carnegie Hall Corporation, for which Mr. Stern served as president until his death. In recognition for his work, the main auditorium of Carnegie Hall was named in his honor.

For 43 years Isaac Stern was married to Vera Lindenblit, the mother of his three children. He died in 2001 of heart failure, survived by his third wife, Linda Reynolds.