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Harold Mattes Berlfein

Class of ’39


August 29th, 1918 – August 15th, 2014

Harold was a guy from the Bronx, a first generation American with a passion for learning. Education was his ticket.

In 1938, while at CCNY, he won a $100 scholarship for an essay he wrote for the school paper. This was during the Great Depression, and the prize money meant a lot.

Despite his almost seventy years in Los Angeles, at his core, Harold was a New Yorker. He graduated eighth in his class from DeWitt Clinton High School, and attended CCNY uptown for a year. He then transferred to the downtown campus (now known as Baruch College), where he graduated with a degree in Accounting.

Harold loved to schmooze. He would talk to cabbies, nobel laureates, and school children around the world. He could say, “It’s a pleasure to meet you” in 32 languages. He loved to learn, and ask questions about anything and everything: the Torah, physics, philosophy, mathematics. Learning trumped everything, except for family. His generosity was boundless. He said yes to anything—if it strengthened family ties.

Inspired by the generosity of his $100 scholarship, Hal and Jean Berlfein established the Berlfein Family Prize. In memory of their father Hal Berlfein, his four daughters continue to award the Prize, as well as support the academic endeavors of refractMagazine, to honor all that he stood for—schmoozing, family, learning, and teaching.