Eric Ross, who founded a Newark, N.J., company that eventually became compounder AlphaGary Corp., never forgot his roots as a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany. Ross, who died a year ago at age 91, was a longtime supporter of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Earlier this week, the museum announced that it received a $17.2 million gift from Ross -- the largest in the institution's history. Ross and the plastics industry go back a pretty far. He apprenticed at a rubber company in Germany before the war. He fled Germany in 1938, eventually making his way to America. "Most of his family, including his parents, never got out. He arrived here not knowing English and with no money," a friend, Rabbi Clifford M. Kulwin of Temple B'nai Abraham in Livingston, N.J., wrote. "He collected used tires for scrap and began in a menial position in a chemical business. Compared to him, Horatio Alger heroes had it easy." After a stint in the U.S. Army, Ross got a foot in the still-fledgling PVC sector in 1950, when he started Alpha Chemical & Plastics in Newark, N.J. Ross was a pioneer in using PVC in medical devices, working with customer C.R. Bard, according to this excellent history of Alpha Chemical from Newark's The Star-Ledger newspaper. In 1985 he sold the company to Dexter Inc., starting a string of changes and new owners for the company. Some of the most noteable: Alpha merged with Leominster, Mass.-based Gary Corp. in 1994, and Mexichem SAB de CV bought the whole company earlier this year. In retirement, Ross and his wife, Lore, were active supporters of the Holocaust museum. In 2003, President George W. Bush appointed Ross to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council. Over the years, the couple donated more than $30 million to the museum. "Having experienced firsthand Nazi antisemitism and hatred, Eric and Lore Ross became determined and generous investors in Holocaust education," Museum Director Sara J. Bloomfield said earlier this week. "Their loss and suffering inspired remarkable generosity." I'm happy to share the story with you today, it seems particularly appropriate during the Rosh Hashanah holiday. L'Shanah Tovah, Tikatevu!
Plastics pioneer Eric Ross donates $17m to Holocaust museum
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