From Real Estate to Real Impact
Dec 01, 2022 Cedars-Sinai Staff
Over the course of their extraordinary lives, Gitta and Jack Nagel embodied the American dream. But even more than reaching the pinnacle of professional achievement, it is how they used their success to nurture and strengthen their community that makes their story truly exceptional.
A Holocaust survivor, Jack immigrated to New York in 1947 with little more than the proverbial shirt on his back. Except for his younger sister, his entire family had been murdered by the Nazis. Jack arrived in America inspired by its endless opportunities and driven by a heartfelt desire to build a family and create a legacy.
"Jack and I always felt that as grateful patients of care at Cedars-Sinai, our Orthodox Jewish community should always support our outstanding local hospital."
Fortunately, it took only a few years until he met Gitta, also a Holocaust survivor, who was living in Los Angeles and studying to attend medical school. He proposed to her after only three dates. They soon married and settled in Southern California, where he became a home builder. But the economic cycles could be punishing to developers, and so Jack and Gitta focused on building apartment housing, which brought greater stability and turned their small ventures into a successful real estate business.
From their earliest days in Los Angeles, Gitta and Jack dedicated themselves to philanthropy, giving generously to a broad range of causes at home and abroad. They helped establish the Orthodox Jewish community of Los Angeles, which is now more than 60,000 people strong. A warm and devoted family man, Jack saw the community as simply an extension of his family. And while his own schooling was cut short by the Shoah, he and Gitta used their thriving real estate business as a tool for good, giving away their wealth to support Jewish education.
Their deep commitment was more than merely financial. They invested their heart and soul into their community, donating their time, vision and guidance to every project they touched. That passion was acknowledged when they each were honored with doctorate degrees from Bar-Ilan University in Israel and Yeshiva University in New York. Their legacy of support for educational and healthcare institutions across the U.S. and Israel included, notably, their community hospital: Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
"Jack and I always felt that as grateful patients of care at Cedars-Sinai, our Orthodox Jewish community should always support our outstanding local hospital," says Gitta.
Jack and Gitta were married for 63 years and had four children: Ronald, Esther, David and Careena. When Jack passed away in 2018, just before his 97th birthday, Gitta carried on their shared legacy of generosity, recently contributing $5 million to establish the Jack and Gitta Nagel and Family Endowed Cardiac Surgery Fellowship Program at the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai. The fellowship seeks to pioneer a new approach to cardiac training that will focus on improving hybrid cardiac procedures, heart and lung transplantations, and heart valve repair with the goals of reshaping patient experience, cultivating transformative research, and reducing patient dependence on medications and devices—all under the tutelage of Professor Joanna Chikwe, MD, the founding chair of the Department of Cardiac Surgery and the Irina and George Schaeffer Distinguished Chair in Cardiac Surgery in honor of Alfredo Trento, MD, at Cedars-Sinai.
This prestigious cardiac fellowship will be awarded to qualified cardiac surgeons— many of whom are accomplished researchers—seeking specialist training in advanced cardiac surgery. Three of the most highly competitive candidates will be selected as Nagel program fellows each year.
"Supporting education is my family’s credo," says Gitta. "Establishing this fellowship fulfills this mission precisely by educating the best of the best in cardiac surgery and research to provide the finest care possible for people in need."
That’s a legacy of care that honors an extraordinary man—and realizes the vision of a truly extraordinary couple.