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Jay, Dr. M. Galst


Dr. Jay M. Galst (1950-2020): A Memoir

Jay Galst died of COVID-19 April 11, age 69. Cheerful and outgoing, he was a friend to all; his passing leaves a huge void.

A collector of Judaica in general, and specifically ancient, medieval (Crusader), and modern coins of the Holy Land, he later specialized intensely in coins, medals, and tokens related to ophthalmology, co-writing with Peter G. van Alfen the definitive catalog on the subject, Ophthalmologia Optica et Visio in Nummis (American Numismatic Society, 2012). He was always willing to share his knowledge and items from his collection with other students of numismatics.

Jay was very active in organized numismatics beginning in the 1980s. He joined the New York Numismatic Club in 1981 (the same year I did) and was soon tapped to serve as Secretary-Treasurer, 1984-85; Vice President, 1986-87; and President, 1988-89. He was a member of the Club’s Board of Directors 1991-2000 and Chairman from 2001 until his death. By the Club’s centennial in 2008 he had been awarded an amazing 24 exhibit medals.

In the mid-1980s he also joined the less formal Bronx Coin Club, and was President of that society 1998-2006. And in August 1991 he attended the ANA 100th Anniversary Convention in Chicago, applying for membership in the Chicago Coin Club at its meeting there. After the usual month’s delay, he was accepted in September 1991, continuing his membership to 2020. We saw him at our meetings at the many ANA World’s Fair of Money conventions in Chicago from 1999 to 2019, and occasionally at other Chicago-area conventions at which the Club met.

Jay was a Life Fellow of the American Numismatic Society and a Life Member of the American Numismatic Association. For the ANA he worked as a district delegate and exhibit judge, and was honored for his services with their Glenn Smedley Memorial Award in 2015. In 2014 he was voted a Numismatic Ambassador.

In 1980 Jay established a private ophthalmology practice in Manhattan, which became very successful, and joined the multi-location Omni Eye Services in 2016. He was an inaugural board member of the General Service and Strabismus Service of the Ophthalmology Faculty Practice of the New York Eye & Ear Infirmary, where he was Senior Attending Surgeon. At the Icann School of Medicine of Mount Sinai he was Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology, continuing to teach ophthalmology residents how to perform Strabismus surgery. An Honorary Surgeon of the New York Police Department, he was elected an officer of the Order of St. John and served on the Board of the Museum of Vision. He was also a member of the Board of Directors of the Cogan Ophthalmic History Society and chaired the Ocular History Society from 1989-90 and 2009-10.

But this summary gives barely a hint of Jay’s famous generousity. The New York Numismatic Club celebrated its centennial with a ban quet at Keens Steakhouse, Friday, December 12, 2008. I flew out to attend the festivities, arriving three days early so that I could study the Crusader bezants in the ANS collection in preparation for my paper at the International Numismatic Congress in Glasgow the next year. Jay invited me to stay with him, and so I had his son David’s room in their lovely apartment, with its view of the Chrysler Building, illuminated at night. On Thursday Jay and Joann had tickets for a concert and they invited me to come along, obtaining one for me also. Of course I shared some expenses, but it was an experience I’ll never forget.— Robert D. Leonard Jr.

Source credit: Robert D. Leonard, Jr.


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