The Guterman and Benson (originally Libenson) families originated in Eastern Europe, coming to the United States at the turn of the 19th century; the Gutermans from Ukraine and Poland and the Libensons from Lithuania. Stories told by our non-English speaking grandparents described a life characterized by fear of Pogroms (attacks by local peasants), subsistence agriculture, and poverty. The Guterman family ran a barrel business in Kiev, while the Libensons worked as teachers and scholars in Vilnius. During the early part of the 20th century, our grandparents, teenagers at the time, made the treacherous journey to the United States via Ellis Island. They left their parents, grandparents and siblings to seek out a better life. These new immigrants settled on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in New York City, working in sweat shops and living in tenements. They worked hard, saved their earnings and started their own families and businesses. The Gutermans became private and commercial builders in Queens and the Libensons owned a candy store in New Rochelle, NY. Their children, our parents, were born in the United States where they experienced the Great Depression and grew up wanting for basic necessities. They went to school, served in the army during World War II and the Korean War, and benefited significantly from the post-war initiatives in subsidized education and housing.
George and Lillian Benson (George changed his last name to Benson after World War II when anti-Semitism was rampant) were highly educated individuals. George received his PhD in Marketing, and Lillian completed a Masters in Education. George became chairman of the Department of Marketing at St. John’s University in Queens, New York and Lillian went on to become an educator in the City of New York. They bought a small house on Long Island and lived there until they retired in 1984.
Arthur and Patricia Guterman followed a different path. The Guterman family enjoyed a successful family business in the United States, building apartments and houses in the New York area, many of which can still be seen today.
Critical thinking has always been a vital and central aspect of Jewish learning and study, passed down through the Benson narrative with emphasis on higher education. Though the senior Gutermans did not pursue higher education, their children were motivated from an early age. Lee Guterman left high school in his second year to conduct research and to pursue independent study at the Hahnemann University teaching hospital in Philadelphia, where his experience had a profound impact on the course of his life. At the age of sixteen, the same age at which only two generations before, our ancestors travelled across the oceans to the United States in pursuit of a better life, Lee was given the opportunity to begin what would become a prolific scientific career. What started as small-scale experiments with gel and filter paper in the hands of a teen catalyzed into more than 20 years of higher education in health sciences, multiple degrees, awards, research, patents, and entrepreneurship.
We have been blessed with good health, good fortune, and unique opportunities throughout our lives, all of which have highlighted and emphasized the importance of hard work, success, and giving back. It is our desire to pass on these opportunities and responsibilities to our children so that they too may assume the responsibility of contribution to the betterment of society in a meaningful way.
We feel, in the most elemental sense, that it is our duty to help others and to improve society using our available skills and resources. The Randwood Foundation wishes to improve the lives of others through the improvement of health and education around the world.
The Rwanda Drill Project - January 2015 - Drs Guterman and Benson along with the CHUK Neurosurgical team in Kigali
"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."