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For Teachers & Students Intro to the Holocaust Genocide Resources About Kurt & Tessye Simon

About Kurt & Tessye Simon

also see:
WNIT PBS Program "A Life of Service"



Kurt & Tessye Simon

Kurt Simon was born in Germany September 22, 1913.  In 1930, at just 16 years of age, he came to South Bend, Indiana to work at Simon Brothers Incorporated, his cousins’ wholesale grocery business.  He graduated from South Bend Central High School within a year and applied to and was accepted at the University of Notre Dame. He completed his college degree in four years while also working part time. Kurt entered the firm as a salesman and eventually became President and CEO of Simon Brothers in 1962.  Under his leadership, the company expanded and flourished. 

Kurt married Tessye Dounn on March 12, 1942.  Their first home was located at 1216 East Wayne Street North in South Bend.

In 1937, Kurt was able to bring his parents, a sister and an uncle from Nazi Germany to join him in South Bend.  Kurt always said that rescue was one of his “greatest achievements.” Without his intervention, they would have likely been killed in the Holocaust-- as many others in his family were. 

Tessye died in 2001 at the age of 89.  At the time, she and Kurt had been married for almost 60 years. 

Tessye was very active in the community, giving much of her time and energy to Temple affairs.  She received many honors, including a “Woman of Valor” distinction in 1996,and a “Sagamore of the Wabash,” Indiana’s highest honor, in 2001.

Kurt and Tessye had always been generous with their support, contributing to various Michiana causes and institutions, such as Temple Beth-El, Memorial Hospital, Indiana University, the Ara Parsegian Medical Research Foundation, the University of Notre Dame, and Hebrew Union College. However, they especially hoped to enhance and promote Jewish education, and in 1975, they established the Kurt and Tessye Simon Foundation to strengthen the ties between the Jewish population and the greater Michiana community. 

The Kurt and Tessye Simon Fund for Holocaust Remembrance is dedicated to educating both Jewish and non-Jewish communities, relating lessons learned in the Holocaust to contemporary issues of ethics, morality, prejudice and injustice. 

The Simons gave generously to the local Jewish Federation and to the synagogues of South Bend.  They also established the Kurt and Tessye Simon Endowment for Excellence in Jewish Studies at Kurt’s alma mater, the University of Notre Dame. They also supported United Religious Communities of St, Joseph County; Indiana University; the Center for the Homeless; and Memorial Hospital of South Bend’s Children’s Hospital. 

Kurt passed away at the age of 99 on January 8, 2013.

The South Bend Indiana community remembers Kurt Simon for his generosity, philanthropy and spirit of sharing. “When I see someone suffer, I want to help,” he often said. “Life’s been good to me and I want to pay a little bit back.”

© Kurt & Tessye Simon Foundation for Holocaust Remembrance