Leona and Harry Helmsley, billionaire real estate entrepreneurs who led lives that included a prison sentence for tax evasion, continue to do good deeds for Israel after their deaths.

The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust has granted the Hadassah Academic College a gift of $7.1 million to build an interdisciplinary science center at its campus in the center of Jerusalem.

The seven-story, 5,350 square meter center will provide state of the art classroom facilities for anticipated major student growth. The building will also house a gallery for art, photography and cultural exhibits and a 350-seat auditorium for college and community-wide events.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat traveled to the US on behalf of the municipality when he learned of interest at the charitable trust to donate to the project.

After he presented the case for the importance of expanding Hadassah Academic College and was given a positive response, Barkat stated this week that “the expansion of Hadassah Academic College, now made possible through the great generosity of the Helmsley Trust, is a strategically important and deeply meaningful gift to Jerusalem. It strengthens the city by increasing the young population and creates an engine for the growth of the sciences, one of Jerusalem’s key economic drivers.”

Hadassah College’s board chairman David Brodet said: “The new center strengthens the college’s presence and academic impact in Jerusalem.”

Prof. Nava Ben-Zvi, outgoing president of Hadassah Academic College, said: “The new Interdisciplinary Science Center will serve as an enabler for our mission to educate well trained professionals for Israel’s science and health-based sectors, and for attracting young men and women to our city of Jerusalem.”

The trust supports a range of organizations and institutions with a major focus on health and medical research in addition to programs in human services, education, cultural access and conservation.

Leona Helmsley, born Lena Mindy Rosenthal, was dubbed “the Queen of Mean” due to her reputation in business. She survived her billionaire third husband and died at the age of 87 five years ago. They owned luxurious hotels, especially in New York City. She was convicted in 1989 on federal charges of tax evasion. Her husband had been indicted along with her, but since he was judged too ill and weak to stand trial, he was not sent to prison. Leona was required to serve only 19 months in prison and two months under house arrest despite a 16-year sentence.

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