Jesse Kahn, 98, a pillar of the Jewish community of Great Neck, died at his apartment on July 27, 2001 after a short illness. Mr. Kahn, who moved to Great Neck in 1931, became an early member of Temple Beth-El of Great Neck. He was elected a trustee in 1933 and shortly thereafter vice president. He also served for many years as the temple counsel, head of ushers and chairman of several committees, later being elected a lifetime trustee and permanent honorary vice president. In January, 2001, he was honored at a brunch at which he gave a witty, extemporaneous speech that had many in the audience laughing appreciatively.
He was widely known in Great Neck, in his later years as the "candy man" for his habit of distributing hard candies to bank employees, barbers, bus drivers, waiters and other people with whom he came in contact. A friend, Charles Draper, said "the candy was never as sweet as he was."
In the 1930s, he served as associate chairman of the charity drive for the then new Federation of Jewish Philanthropies, breaking the previous record for fundraising. During WWII, he won a commendation for the highest sales of government war bonds by a member of his synagogue. Later he worked on committees that raised money to establish Long Island Jewish Hospital and for what is now the North Shore University Hospital.
Mr. Kahn was born in Austria-Hungary Dec. 12, 1902. He came to the US with his parents in 1904. Living first on the Lower and later the Upper East Side, he went to grammar school and later DeWitt Clinton High School, of which he remained a loyal alumnus. He worked after school, first in a shoe store, where he was proud that he never missed an opportunity to sell shoe trees to someone who had just bought shoes, and then in a pharmacy. Upon graduation in 1921, he entered NYU Law School, from which he received a bachelor's and a master's degree in law. He was admitted to the Bar in 1925.
While at law school, he became a member of alpha chapter of Alpha Epsilon Pi, a social fraternity, of which he was later elected supreme sentinel.
He was employed by the law firm of Kornbluth and Pollack from 1920 until 1929, when, with a fraternity brother, Jesse Safir, he founded the law firm of Safir & Kahn, located for many years at 521 Fifth Ave. Mr. Kahn, who specialized in trial work, was instrumental in the 1930s in the formation of what was probably the first trial lawyers' organization in the US, the Association of Trial Lawyers of the City of NY, which still flourishes.
Mr. Kahn married the former Florence Abraham in 1929. Mrs. Kahn died 1989, after the couple had celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary.
Mr. Kahn was a handsome man with an affable and charming manner. That he was widely known and liked in Great Neck is attested by the fact that during his last illness many people asked for him. His funeral at Temple Beth-El, on July 30, at which Rabbi Jerome Davidson officiated, was attended by more than 150 people.
He is survived by his three children, David Kahn, an author, and Miriam Harris, formerly at the Children's Living After School Program (CLASP), both of Great Neck, and Louis A. Kahn, a retired teacher, of Teaneck, NJ.; by seven grandchildren, Rebecca Harris, Nancy Harris Sidford, John Harris, Deborah Kahn, Diana Kahn, Oliver Kahn, and Michael Kahn; and by six great-grandchildren, Aaron, Rachel and Sarah Sidford and Daniel, Benjamin and Adina Harris.