Former Jawonio CEO Paul Tendler Passes Away

Longtime Jawonio executive and leader in helping those with special needs passed away in Florida early Sunday


Former Jawonio CEO and Executive Director Paul J. Tendler passed away on Sunday, July 22 in Delray, FL after a long battle with cancer.  He is survived by his wife, Sandy, their three children and three grandchildren. He was born on May 16, 1942 in the Bronx and was 70 years old.

Tendler served more than 30 years with Jawonio, starting as Associate Executive Director from 1977 until 1986 when he became CEO. He retired from Jawonio in April 2009 and he moved to Florida soon afterwards. 

Jawonio CEO Jill Warner, who was with Tendler and his family when he passed away from kidney cancer, expressed her sorrow.

“On behalf of all of us at Jawonio our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time,” said Warner. “It is very hard for me to imagine a world without Paul Tendler in it. He was my friend, my mentor and a true visionary leader. He brought Jawonio into the 21st century and created opportunities for people with disabilities that were once dreams that he turned into reality. He gave me a chance to succeed, and for that I will always be grateful.”

Warner noted Tendler’s empathy for others was felt throughout Jawonio

“Paul Tendler is synonymous with Jawonio,” she recalled. “He always wanted to make sure that we treated each person with the dignity and respect they deserve, and to ensure families that when their loved one was in Jawonio’s care that they became and remained part of the Jawonio family.  With his passing a giant in Jawonio’s history is no longer with us, however, the people he touched and programs he pioneered are his legacy to our community. 

Tendler, a former New City resident, joined the Masons of Athelstane Lodge in May 2005 who recalled his contributions.

“He will always be remembered as a soft spoken gentleman whose outstanding work for children and adults with disabilities and special needs in New York and New Jersey will forever be a living legacy to his memory.  His accomplishments merited his stature in the community and spoke volumes of his inherent Masonic beliefs and his ideals of service to his fellowman.”   

Under Tendler’s guidance, Jawonio expanded programs and services that now benefit more than 5,000 children and adults annually. He led the development of the Senator Eugene Levy Group Home in 1991 and over the next 10 years, the addition of 13 more group homes plus 23 apartments and condominiums. In 2001, he began Jawonio New Jersey, a residential agency, which developed five group homes.

Tendler’s vision included the purchase of the Jawonio TECH building for Employment and Day Services and Behavioral Health Services, the Yonkers Operations for Adults, and the Paul J. Tendler Independent Living Center in Spring Valley.

Dr. David Tendler spoke about his father. 

“He loved Jawonio, loved its mission, and most of all, loved all of the people there. The lives of countless people with disabilities will be better for decades to come because of him. Quite a wonderful legacy.”

Prior to Jawonio, Tendler worked as the director of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services at the Rockland County Community Mental Health Center and for the New York City Department of Social Services.  Over the years, he received numerous awards and certificates of recognition. These included:

  • 2007 Spirit of Temple Beth Torah Award
  • 2002 Jewish Family Services of Rockland County Community Service Award
  • 2002 Friend of Jawonio Award
  • 2002 Ralph DeMayo Alumni Award from the Fordham University of Graduate School Social Service
  • 1998 Boy Scouts of America Hudson Valley Council District Achievement Award
  • 1997 United Cerebral Palsy Daniel Wieder Award for Professional Leadership, 1996 Joseph R. Bernstein Memorial Award from the Mental Health Association of Rockland County
  • 1981 Myrtle Wreath Award from the Lower New York State Region of Hadassah.

Paul Tendler was a former national surveyor for the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, member of the National Association of Social Workers, Academy of Certified Social Workers and Society of Clinical Social Workers. He was a founding board member of the Disability Service Providers of America, secretary of the New York State Industries for the Disabled, chairman of the Rockland County Disability Advisory Council, co-chairman of the Council for the International Year of Disabled Persons, president of the New City Rotary Club, vice president of the Helen Hayes Performing Arts Center, committee member of the New York State Commission on Quality Care Surrogate Decision Making and executive board member of the Rockland  County Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

His affiliations included serving as a board member of the Fordham University Graduate School of Social Services, Rockland County Community Services Board, Rockland Council on Alcoholism, and Leadership Rockland, and member of the New York State Select Committee on the Disabled, the New York State Inter-Agency Council Advisory Board, the New York Senate Select Committee on Social Services, the BOCES Occupational Education Advisory Council, Letchworth Developmental Center Competency Review Board, National Eagle Scout Association and Athelstane Lodge No. 839, Free and Accepted Masons. Tendler received a Master's degree in Social Work from Fordham University and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Sciences from Michigan State University.

The funeral service will be held on Tuesday, July 24 at Beth Israel Memorial Chapel in Boynton Beach, FL. In addition to his wife of 50 years,, Tendler is survived by his son Dr. David Tendler and his wife Susan Spratt, their three children, Lily, 13 years old, Jack 10 years old, Max six years old, and two daughters, Laura and Robyn. Condolences can be sent to: Mrs. Sandy Tendler, 6512 Via Milini, Lake Worth, FL 33467. Contributions in his memory can be made to Jawonio, 260 N. Little Tor Road, New City, NY 10956

Rockland County Legislator Ed Day July 23, 2012 at 11:19 AM
Today, I join my family at Jawonio in mourning the loss of former CEO Paul J. Tendler. While he will be missed, the trail he blazed in service to the children and adults with disabilities and special needs over the years will remain and grow even stronger in service to the them.
Lidster July 23, 2012 at 11:56 AM
RIP, Mr. Tendler. Your hard work and dedication to those with special needs & their families changed Rockland for the better.
Pam Abeling August 02, 2012 at 07:08 PM
I knew Paul for many years and we shared a lot of laughs and stories. Jawonio is an amazing place for folks who need help and I enjoyed seeing Paul at Summer camp and at Fisher. He will be a special memory in my life as I know he will be for his family and all the Jawonio family. Pam Abeling


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