September 18, the 22nd of Elul, marked the yahrzeit of Mr. Gene I. Mesh of blessed memory. Born in 1931 to Charles and Lillian Mesh, Gene grew up in Hamilton, Ohio. After the sudden passing of his father in 1933, Gene lived with his mother and her two brothers, Phillip and Maurice Fogel. Phillip was a father figure for Gene.
Gene attended the University of Michigan, graduating in 1952 with a business degree. He met the love of his life, Elise Schwartz, at the University of Michigan, but when they became “pinned,” her parents brought her back to attend the University of Cincinnati. This did not stop their love affair and they married on March 1st, 1953. They were married for 66 years.
In Gene’s words “More precious than rubies, Elise has the strength of ten. She is a true woman of valor. I am convinced I would not be alive today had it not been for her strength.”
When they were first married, Gene worked for the family business, The Schwartz Tailoring Company, in the Pettibone Brothers Manufacturing division, nationally known for specializing in selling Masonic and Shriners gear and outfits, marching band uniforms, and, interestingly, in a foreshadowing of future endeavors, official Judge’s Robes. He has said those were some of his happiest days, traveling the midwest with his good friend and partner, Sidney Kaufman. Eight years later, after their children were born, he decided to attend Chase Law School at night while supporting his family during the day.
In the late 1960s he started representing minority shareholders. Gene became an innovator in the field of class action law. Gene’s career spanned over 40 years, with the theme of helping the underdog and the little guy against much larger corporate interests, often taking on corps of much larger corporate firms with his singular maverick outfit. He also took on various notable civil rights and criminal cases in his years of practice. Worthy also of mention are the many rabbis Gene helped and defended, no matter their affiliation. He had great respect for their work.
In 1967, as the Six-Day War broke out, Elise told Gene “They are fighting in Jerusalem. We need to do something.”
The following month, Gene and Elise went to Israel to attend an Israel Bonds conference. Their lives were forever changed. Elise became the Woman’s Chair for a few years and then Gene, the Men’s Chair in Cincinnati. Gene would give a dynamic and passionate appeal every Yom Kippur, encouraging the congregation to INVEST in Israel Bonds, pointing out how important the State of Israel is to the state of the Jewish People. Those appeals were memorable for their gravitas, intensity and fervor, and befitted the solemn occasion
Over the years, Gene and Elise were honored many times for their dedication to Israel Bonds. In 1985, he was honored as the “Man of the Year” by Israel Bonds. In 1995, Gene and Elise were honored with others at the national dinner for Israel Bonds in Palm Beach, Florida. The award was presented by former Prime Minister of Israel, Shimon Peres. In 2021, Gene received the Legacy Scroll of Honor on Israel Bonds 70th anniversary, the third person to receive this award in the history of Israel Bonds.
In addition, Gene gave to many organizations locally and nationally. In Cincinnati, he valued the work of Jeep, the Kollel, and supported many institutions of Jewish education.
More than any of his professional accomplishments, Gene was a man who valued family. In 2001, he wrote an ethical will which told of his hopes, dreams, and desires for those who come after him. He spoke of the importance of charity, including his wish for his descendants to “continue and develop and extend your adherence to Judaism. Continue to improve your character every day. In times of deepest trouble, you should rely on each other firstly, as well as upon the traditions you have seen in your home and the traditions of your religion. Finally, never forget how fortunate and blessed we have all been. I can never express sufficient thanks for the blessings my children and grandchildren have brought me. I have had all and more in my life than a man could dare ask for. I have tried to constantly and on a daily basis give thanks in quiet prayer for all this. I recommend that habit.” What a beautiful legacy.
Gene is survived by Chuck and Dianne (Litwin) Mesh, Aaron, Jordan and Natalie, Allison Mesh, Sydney and Michael Harris, Akiva Harris, Sarah Rena and Josh Grodko, (Avi, Ezra, Noam), Chaim and Meira Harris, (Racheli Harris) Shuey and Racheli Gordon, Yakov and Emily Harris, and Lawrence Mesh.