Grapevine: Worthy cause

Israeli institutions and projects around the country have benefited from the extraordinary generosity of individual donors and community foundations.

Miri Regev
■ PARENTS, STUDENTS and teaching staff at the Nadav Democratic School in Modi’in last Saturday organized a fund-raising happening on behalf of Vered Birenbaum, 50, one of the founders of the school, who has been teaching there for 17 years. Birenbaum was diagnosed with cancer three years ago and has undergone two bouts of surgery. However, the cancer returned and the type of treatment she needs is not available in Israel but is available in Germany. The cost involved is NIS 250,000, of which NIS 100,000 has been raised to date.
The fund-raiser was held at Mitzpe Modi’in in the Ben-Shemen Forest, with health as the main theme. Participants enjoyed natural and vegetarian food prepared by the community, purchased various other items that were on sale and went on a guided bike trip along the shaded forest paths.
■ CULTURE AND Sport Minister Miri Regev was last week made an honorary citizen of Ma’alot-Tarshiha, despite the fact that Mayor Shlomo Bohbot is a former Labor MK who recently led an 18-member delegation of mayors to Ramallah to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Bohbot suggested that a preliminary conference that would lead up to the resumption of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians be held at Ma’alot-Tarshiha. While speaking to Abbas, Bohbot, who has been mayor of his town for 40 years, called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to hold a peace conference not in Europe or in Egypt but in Ma’alot-Tarshiha.
■ COMMUNITIES ACROSS Israel run Shabbat Tarbut (cultural) programs, but none get the degree of radio and television coverage as that of Beersheba, whose program is run on a Saturday morning every three weeks at the Performing Arts Center. Moderator Roi Katz, who also happens to be the spokesman for the Beersheba Municipality, tends to invite controversial politicians and other public figures whose remarks make news headlines, and it doesn’t take much these days to distribute the information and thereby ensure that Beersheba is on the map of public consciousness.
Whereas in many communities Shabbat Tarbut is conducted without any violation Shabbat, meaning no microphones or other electronic devices, in Beersheba there is a microphone, and the interview sessions are all videotaped. The Rabin Center in Tel Aviv also uses microphones for its Shabbat Tarbut interview programs, but it conducts its programs on Friday during the day.
■ ISRAELI INSTITUTIONS and projects around the country have benefited from the extraordinary generosity of individual donors and foundations that some of these donors have established. In most cases the sums of money donated over time by any one individual or foundation add up to tens of millions of dollars, and sometimes hundreds of millions.
Among these super donors are Sheldon and Miriam Adelson through the Adelson Family Foundation; Charles Bronfman through Keren Karev; the Pratt Foundation; John Gandel, the Mandel Foundation, the Avi Chai Foundation, the Wexner Foundation, the Schusterman Foundation, the Rothschilds, Dame Vivien Duffield, Della and Fred Worms, Roman Abramovitch, the Nadav Foundation headed by Leonid Nevzlin, the Azrieli Foundation, Frank Lowy, the Besen Family Foundation, the Bloomfield family, and many others too numerous to name.
But it’s doubtful that anyone previously left or gave a sum of $400 million to any university in Israel. The lucky beneficiary is Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, which is to receive this substantial bequest from the estate of the late Dr. Howard and Lottie Marcus of San Diego, California.
Already well advanced in age when they visited BGU in 1997, they were so impressed by its research – primarily in the fields of water, desalination and desert studies – that they began to financially support research in these fields, including a laboratory and student scholarships. They believed that water solutions are the key to achieving peace in the Middle East. Soon afterward, they decided to leave the bulk of their fortune to the university.
Born in Germany, they fled individually when the Nazis came to power, but most of their families were murdered. In the US, where they met, Howard worked as a dentist and Lottie as a secretary in a Wall Street firm. They invested wisely or luckily, counting investment gurus such as Benjamin Graham and Warren Buffett as good friends.
The couple’s interest in BGU never waned or wavered, and both received honorary doctorates. Howard died in 2014 at age 104, and Lottie died in December 2015 just two months short of her 100th birthday.
■ RABIN SQUARE in Tel Aviv is a bookworm’s delight during Hebrew Book Week, but activities to promote Hebrew literature were not limited to outdoor space alone.
Tel Aviv City Hall, which is adjacent to Rabin Square, for one night opened its doors to accommodate writers and readers, and there were events in offices as well as public space, enabling readers to meet writers, poets, singers, actors and other artists face-to-face, including Lillian Barto, Israel Bar-Kohav, Nava Semel, Elisha Banai, Vered Shmueli, Moshe Sakal, Eran Zur, Atara Ofek, and Dror Mishani.