Synagogue Gets Pleasant Shock From Gift in Memory of Wife

By Michelle Boorstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 5, 2006

At Adas Israel Congregation, a synagogue with many prominent and wealthy members, Donald Saltz flew under the radar. A slightly disheveled, retired business journalist with an eight-year-old Buick and a simple house, his claims to fame included penning a trivia quiz for local newspapers and being married to the sweet woman who gave out bags of candy at holiday time.

But after "his angel," Mozelle Saltz, died last year, the membership at Adas Israel was in for a shock about Saltz.

Yesterday, officials said Saltz, 72, had donated $5 million to the Quebec Street NW synagogue in honor of Mozelle -- one of the largest individual donations to a house of worship in the United States in years, national philanthropy experts said.

When the gift was announced at a recent board meeting, people gasped. It's the largest in Adas Israel's 140-year history. "He was one of the last people you'd expect to make such a contribution," said synagogue Executive Director Glenn S. Easton. Saltz is "a modest person in everything about him," President Russell Smith said.

And Saltz's approach to money was modest and simple: Buy stocks, and hold onto them. And keep holding. This is a man who owns the first stock he bought, in 1957.

"Don is the original buy-and-hold investor," said Stephen Aug, a good friend who was Saltz's editor at the defunct Washington Star.

"I've always been thrifty, though other people would say cheap," Saltz said.

Saltz's is the story of someone who has quietly lived a remarkable -- and ultimately rich -- life.

In rural Crisfield, Md., he dreamed of being a newspaperman and headed to Washington and worked for the Star, Washington Daily News and the Baltimore Evening Sun as well as television and radio stations, where he was a business reporter and editor.

Working on the night shift at one point and answering callers' requests for information, he developed a love for trivia that turned into a trivia game that ran in several papers -- and still runs in the Buffalo News. Readers answer questions such as: "Will an ice cube in a glass of water raise the water level when the ice melts?" (No). He also invented a trivia board game and wrote trivia books.

The trivial, however, was matched by the dramatic. Mozelle Saltz worked in the offices of the Jewish civic group B'nai B'rith, then on Rhode Island Avenue at 17th Street NW, where she was among those taken hostage in 1977 by a Muslim group.

In the 1970s, Saltz pushed to bring a professional minor league baseball team to Washington -- from Montreal (he was ahead of his time), but the plan fizzled for lack of local support.

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