In Memoriam: Innovative businessman Jay I. Kislak

Tuesday, October 16, 2018 0 Comments

In Memoriam: Innovative businessman Jay I. Kislak


Innovative businessman, philanthropist, aviator, collector, history enthusiast, and patron of education and ideas, Jay I. Kislak, 96, died peacefully at his Miami home on October 3.

Kislak spent his life exploring unusual places, ideas and ventures, forging relationships and assembling extraordinary treasures, which he generously shared. His achievements encompassed many fields of endeavor – business, collecting, flying and philanthropy, to name just a few.

Entrepreneurial and driven, Kislak got his first real estate license while still a high school student at Newark Academy in New Jersey. He earned a degree in economics from the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania, graduating early to serve as a Naval Aviator in World War II.

Upon return to New Jersey in 1945, Kislak entered the family real estate business full time and made it his life’s work.

Kislak and his first wife, Beverly Braverman, had three children – Jonathan, Philip and Paula – and remained friends until her death in 2015.

In the early 1950s, he moved his family to Miami, establishing what would become one of the country’s largest privately held mortgage banks, originating and servicing loans nationwide for more than 40 years from its headquarters in Miami Lakes.

Until his death, Kislak served as chairman of the Kislak Organization, which today focuses on real estate investment and brokerage.

Through a shared passion for art, Kislak met Jean Ellis Hart and their married in Miami in 1985. They shared adventures that took them from the North Pole to the South Pole, and included every continent.

While building a successful business enterprise, Kislak also created a cultural and historic legacy – unique collections of rare books, maps, manuscripts, paintings, prints and artifacts. With his wife, Jean, he established the nonprofit Jay I. Kislak Foundation for the conservation and study of materials related to the cultural and history of the early Americas.

In 2004, he donated more than 4,000 items to the Library of Congress which is now on permanent display including the 1516 Carta Marina Navigatoria, the first printed navigational map of the world by the celebrated German mapmaker Martin Waldseemuller.

Through a landmark gift in 2017, Kislak and his family established two permanent South Florida homes for his internationally significant collection – Kislak Centers at the University of Miami and Miami Dade College Freedom Tower.

A celebration of life was held on October 7 at Temple Beth Am in Pinecrest.

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