Your Daily Phil: Israel’s Bar-Ilan University gets $260 million anonymous donation

Good Monday morning. 

In today’s edition of Your Daily Phil, we report on a $260 million donation, made anonymously, to Israel’s Bar-Ilan University, and on yesterday’s Israel Day on Fifth parade in New York City. We feature an opinion piece by Rafi Musher about how to make a greater impact with donations to higher education. Also in this newsletter: Michael DouglasMoran Stella Yanai and Lt. Nathan BaskindWe’ll start with a new $4.5 million donation to American Jewish University.

American Jewish University board chair, Harold Masor, and his wife, Amy, will donate $4.5 million to the institution, the school announced at a gala event on Sunday, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Esther D. Kustanowitz from the event.

During the event, AJU’s president, Jeffrey Herbst, said AJU’s School for Jewish Education and Leadership — which offers educational training from early childhood through 12th grade — would be renamed the Masor School of Jewish Education in honor of the donors. Herbst called the move “extremely appropriate given [the Masors’]  lifelong dedication to Jewish education and Jewish continuity.”

“Now generations of teachers will be able to benefit from Harold and Amy’s generosity and to serve and inspire Jewish children and their families. This is especially important since we know that the decision to affiliate with the synagogue is directly tied in many cases to early childhood Jewish education,” Herbst told the crowd.

At the fundraiser brunch and concert, titled “Together We Thrive,” the university also honored two longtime scholars, Michael Berenbaum, a professor of Jewish studies and a noted Holocaust scholar, and Rabbi Elliot Dorff, the rector and philosophy professor and expert in Jewish law. The event was held on the Sunny & Isadore Familian Campus, a location which AJU sold to the Milken Community School earlier this year.

The late morning event, which featured brunch staples like bagels, waffles and coffee, was hosted by comedian Elon Gold. Violinist Niv Ashkenazi and bassoonist Leah Kohn performed, and there was a special presentation of U.S. flags from Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) to honorees Berenbaum and Dorff.

Gold — wearing special-issue white sneakers bedecked with Stars of David — played to the room, offering comedic commentary about the difference between American and Israeli Jews, as well as the challenge of reaching students on campus with messaging that negates the rhetoric about Israelis as colonizers. “The only place Jews ever colonized was the Catskills. My zayde, he was a bungalow colonizer,” Gold quipped.

Before the event, Masor, who is also chair of AJU’s board, told eJP that the university had been occupying less than 10% of the 220,000-230,000-square-foot Familian campus. After the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the school’s fiscal challenges he said, “as beautiful and iconic as this space is, it was a [financial] burden.” Three years ago, the board decided to sell the campus; the sale to Milken was completed in February 2024.

“Our whole emphasis has been to try to meet the Jewish community where it is,” Herbst told eJP before the event’s formal program began. “Part of the rationale for the sale was that demanding that people come to Bel Air wasn’t working.” Herbst explained that rabbinical school classes were being run from a building in the Pico-Robertson area, and that AJU is retaining the 2,700-acre Brandeis Bardin campus in Simi Valley, the site of Camp Alonim and other programs.

“As a result of the sale, we’ve eliminated all of our debt and obtained many more millions of dollars of funds to put into our endowment. And so we’re sitting here now in a very strong financial position,” Masor told eJP, adding that the next step is to “really hone in on what our future is going to look like.”

During the conversation with eJP, Masor said that the school of education — the one that will bear his family’s name moving forward — “is going gangbusters,” citing program growth from zero students two years ago to 30 this year, including those in the early childhood education program, a master’s program and a completion program for undergraduate students. The school also has a program which gives college credit to high schoolers across the U.S.; this year’s focus is on a program training high school seniors about Israel, “so that when they go to college campuses, they’re armed in the appropriate way,” Masor said.

“America in general is becoming more fragmented, less affiliated with traditional institutions,” Herbst told eJP, adding that the university is following this trend by instituting the “Jewish Learning Experience”: signing agreements with synagogues nationwide where instructors will teach AJU courses for credit. “It’s not that being land-bound prevented us from doing it in the past, but now that we don’t have the weight of the cost [of the physical space], we can go out and be more entrepreneurial,” he said.

Read the full report here.


Anonymous Columbia grad gifts $260 million to Israel’s Bar-Ilan University for science research

Teens from across the country celebrate Opening Session of USY International Convention in Orlando, Fla. with teens from the Metropolitan New York area.
Bar Ilan University. Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY SA 2.0

An anonymous donor, who would only say — pointedly — that he is a Columbia graduate and was “active in World War II,” donated $260 million to Israel’s Bar-Ilan University, the largest-ever gift received by the institution, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross.

Science saves: “The donor, a man of broad academic education, believed that the development of Israel’s technological resilience relies primarily on breakthrough science,” Bar-Ilan University President Arie Zaban announced today at the school’s annual Board of Trustees meeting. “During his visits to Israel, he recognized the significant impact Bar-Ilan University has made in key areas thanks to its science-based infrastructure and deep connections to all sectors of Israeli society. This gift will be invested in the development of Deep Tech sciences and has the potential to positively influence the future of Israel and humanity.”

Deep Tech: The donation will be used to recruit dozens of researchers in science fields such as “energy, environment, cryptography, bio-convergence, quantum, AI, and natural language processing,” the university said in a statement. “Bar-Ilan will take the lead in building advanced research laboratories, supporting advanced degree students, and creating state-of-the-art innovation hubs,” it added.


Celebrations muted, but passion still strong as New Yorkers march in Israel Day Parade

People hold Israeli flags and wear 'Bring them home now' t-shirts at the 'Israel Day on Fifth' parade in New York City on June 2, 2024.
People hold Israeli flags and wear ‘Bring them home now’ t-shirts at the ‘Israel Day on Fifth’ parade in New York City on June 2, 2024. Adam Gray/Getty Images

As tens of thousands of Israel supporters dressed in blue and white danced in the New York streets on Sunday afternoon — and hundreds more waved Israeli flags on parade floats, together singing “Am Yisrael Chai” — the annual parade and show of Jewish pride that takes place along Fifth Avenue seemed typical at first glance. But this year, at the normally festive parade, reminders were everywhere that Israel is at war in Gaza and more than 100 hostages are still in Hamas captivity, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen.

Celebration out: Security was heavy, with police helicopters and drones buzzing overhead as police dogs and hundreds of officers patrolled the area. The name of this year’s parade reflected a more somber tone: the “Celebrate Israel Parade” was now “Israel Day on Fifth.” This was meant “to emphasize in a respectful and dignified manner, that this year is different, but that our passion for Israel remains stronger than ever before,” Howard Pollack, Jewish Community Relations Council of New York’s parade director, told eJP.

More joyous than expected: Still, the day was peaceful, with relatively few protesters holding anti-Israel signs and Palestinian flags on the sidelines. “The vibes were so positive, with everyone singing, dancing and jumping,” said Emily Austin, 23, a social media influencer who marched on the Israeli Consulate in New York’s float. Austin, who has been attending the parade since she was in high school, noted that this year’s turnout felt smaller. “I wasn’t expecting today to be so positive and uplifting,” she continued, noting that other attendees warned the day may be more “chill and depressing.” “But it wasn’t and I think everyone needed the positivity,” she said.

Silent majority: A number of New York state and city elected officials marched alongside the estimated 40,000 marchers — all of whom needed credentials to participate — including Gov. Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams. “Our message is extremely clear: destroy Hamas, bring home the hostages,” Adams said at the parade. “Let’s bring peace so we don’t lose the lives of innocent people… Today you’re seeing solidarity. The loudest is not the majority in the city.”

Read the full report here.


A different approach to university giving

Entrance gate of Wigglesworth Hall Widener Library at Harvard Yard in Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass.
Entrance gate of Wigglesworth Hall Widener Library at Harvard Yard in Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. Photo by Sergi Reboredo/VW Pics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

“Many funders seeking to make a large impact on a campus opt to give one large gift or make a long-term commitment to supporting a specific field or line of research at the school. This can effectively drive a specific initiative, but it typically does not impact the entire college or university,” writes Rafi Musher, founder and non-executive chairman of global strategic consulting firm Stax LLC and co-founder and board chair of itrek, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Effectively fund change: “To change an organization comprised of many entrenched systems within a reasonable time horizon, what you need as a funder is a portfolio of actions. You can start with a whole portfolio, or choose an element to focus on and expand as you learn more.”

Consider this: “An analysis of the donor-advised funds of seven top Jewish federations shows that from 2014 to 2022, almost $650 million in grants ($80 million annually) went to 25 top-tier colleges and universities, most of which have significant endowments. This doesn’t include funds from major direct donors, nor gifts from personal foundations. Imagine what would happen if we redeployed just some of our capital to these direct-giving portfolios?”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

More Than a Display: In The Jerusalem Post, Tara Mofarah writes about a poignant three-night program in London focused on Oct. 7 and featuring images by photojournalist Chen G. Schimmel. “Hosted in an elegant venue on a classic London square, the event drew deep connections between the harrowing narratives captured through Schimmel’s lens and the rising challenges of antisemitism, misinformation, and the need for a shared understanding of the values under threat. The photographs told a powerful and necessary story, with photos which aimed to bring the viewer to the time of the tragedy and remind us to never forget. The exhibition developed over the week, featuring fireside chats with different prominent figures against the backdrop of Schimmel’s evocative photographs… This exhibition was more than a display; it was a dialogue about tragedy, resilience, and the importance of upholding our shared values in the face of threats to our way of life. It reminded us that in the struggle against those who aim to spread terror, the stories of hope and human strength are beacons of light, guiding our path toward a more understanding and united world.” [JPost]

Around the Web

Several Jewish organizations, including five synagogues and numerous nonprofits in Oregon, severed a long-standing relationship with the Oregon Food Bank after it released a statement, which a local rabbi described as biased against Israel — about the war in Gaza …

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accepted an invitation, extended by Democratic and Republican leadership last week, to address a joint session of Congress in the near future…

The Israel Museum in Jerusalem sustained light damage after a fire broke out in the nearby Valley of the Cross. Israeli authorities are investigating if the fire was deliberately started…

The Anti-Defamation League filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission today, alleging that a political action committee affiliated with the anti-Zionist Jewish Voice for Peace has engaged in a pattern of violations of federal election law and regulation…

Claudia Sheinbaum won the Mexican presidential election yesterday; Sheinbaum, who will be the country’s first female and first Jewish president, has distanced herself from her Jewish roots over the course of the campaign…

A survey of American Jews conducted by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs in the aftermath of the IDF’s entry into the Rafah border area indicated that 52% of American Jews supported President Joe Biden’s decision to withhold arms shipments to Israel. Support for Israel remains robust but conditional, with about a quarter of the respondents expressing unconditional support, while another quarter supported Israel but not its current government…

The faculty union of the City University of New York overwhelming rejected a resolution calling for an Israel boycott three years after voting to “consider” boycotting Israel, and weeks after defending a pro-Palestinian student encampment. Though the union’s president actively opposed the resolution, the decision may have had more to do with the union’s salary negotiations than anything to do with the Israel-Hamas war

The AMIA Jewish community center in the heart of Buenos Aires, Argentina, has unveiled a colorful new façade meant to represent its spirit and diverse activities, three decades after a deadly car bombing at the center left 85 people dead and hundreds wounded…

Actor Michael Douglas is in Israel on a solidarity mission; on Sunday, he visited communities in Israel’s south devastated by the Oct. 7 terror attacks and met with Israeli President Isaac Herzog

Tablet examines the history of the Conseil Représentatif des Institutions Juives de France, or Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France, better known by its acronym CRIF…

The Washington Post interviewed released Israeli hostage Moran Stella Yanai, who was kidnapped by Hamas from the Nova music festival, about her time in captivity…

Three historic New York City synagogues — including Manhattan’s Kehila Kedosha Janina, the only Greek-Jewish Romaniote synagogue in the Western Hemisphere — were among 14 historic religious properties across the state to receive Sacred Sites grants from the New York Landmarks Conservancy, a private nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving and restoring New York’s historic architecture…

The St. Louis Jewish Community Center (the J) appointed Monte Sandler as the new chairman of the board of directors…

The eponymous summit led by viral content producer Nuseir Yassin, known as Nas Daily and originally from the northern Arab-Israeli village of Arrabe, hosted 1,000 participants from around the world in Tel Aviv yesterday despite calls for a boycott…

The New York Times examines how faith-based groups that assist migrants, such as HIAS, are becoming targets of extremists…

The Vancouver, British Columbia, Police Department launched a criminal investigation into a suspected arson fire set in the doorway of the Schara Tzedeck synagogue on the evening last Thursday. The congregants, who were inside the building at the time of the firebombing attack, extinguished the blaze, and there were no injuries…

Shari Redstone, Sam Altman, Mark Zuckerberg, David Zaslav, Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin, University of Florida President Ben Sasse, Michael Bloomberg, Tom Friedman and Alex Karp, alongside a host of politicians, are among those invited to the upcoming annual Sun Valley retreat hosted by Allen & Co.

Bill Ackman is expected to support former President Donald Trump in the upcoming presidential election. Ackman plans to take his firm Pershing Square public as soon as next year, selling a stake in the company in a funding round that is expected to value the company at $10.5 billion…

The recently identified remains of Lt. Nathan Baskind, a Jewish-American soldier killed in France during the Battle of Cherbourg in 1944, which were originally buried in a mass grave alongside the bodies of dozens of Nazi soldiers, will be reinterred in the American cemetery in Normandy later this month through Operation Benjamin

Despite claims that it was entirely student-led, an anti-Israel protest at a San Francisco public high school appears to have been facilitated by an outside group, the Arab Resource and Organizing Center

Pic of the Day

Courtesy/Tzvi Simcha Cohen

A delegation of Jewish student leaders from the U.S. meets yesterday with Israel’s President Isaac Herzog (front row, fifth from right) in Jerusalem.

The Olami Campus Leader Mission is part of Olami’s #ZeroTolerance campaign, which aims to establish a zero-tolerance culture for antisemitism on campuses. Participants include students attending Columbia, Harvard, UCLA, UC Berkeley, University of Michigan, Rutgers, Tulane, MIT and University of Arizona.


Jonathan S. Lavine, co-managing partner and chief investment officer of Bain Capital Credit

Founding member of the band Phish, Michael Eliot Gordon

Founding director of AJC’s Berlin office, he later served as council chair at Kendal on Hudson, Eugene L. DuBow… Long-time San Fernando Valley, Calif., resident, Richard J. Munitz… Alice Heyman… Chairperson and co-founder of the World Economic Forum and its sister organization, the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, Hilde Schwab… Attorney, author and 2024 candidate for Congress, Jan Schneider… Tel Aviv-based attorney who serves as an overseas representative to the French parliament representing the southern Mediterranean region, Daphna Poznanski-Benhamou… First Lady of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden… Retired director for legislative strategy, policy and government affairs at AIPAC, Ester Kurz… Professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, he heads its program in Judezmo (or Ladino) studies, David Monson Bunis… President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston from 2007 until 2021, Eric S. Rosengren… Chief cantor of Vienna, Austria’s Israelitische Kultusgemeinde since 1992, lyrical tenor, Shmuel Barzilai… Rabbi at the Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Los Angeles since 1987, he became senior rabbi in 2003, Steve Leder… Racquetball player, he won two World Championships and 10 Canadian Championships, now an advertising account executive in Winnipeg, Sherman Greenfeld… Retired U.S. Navy rear admiral now serving as White House National Security Communications Advisor, John F. Kirby… Member of the British Parliament for the Conservative Party from 2001 until last week, Jonathan Djanogly… Chairwoman of Azrieli Group, she serves on the boards of both the Weizmann Institute and Tel Aviv University, Danna Azrieli Hakim… U.S. District judge for the Southern District of New York, Judge Ronnie Abrams… CEO of Ridgeback Communications, Andrew Samuel Weinstein… Executive director of the Jewish Federation of the Greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys, Jason Moss… Actress and model best known for her role as Nicole Walker on the NBC’s daytime soap opera Days of Our Lives, Arianne Zucker… Los Angeles-based PR consultant at Winning Progressive, Eric M. Schmeltzer… Major gifts officer at the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank, Lauren Becker… Senior director of experiential marketing at the International Rescue Committee, Sophie Oreck… Chief political officer at Israel on Campus Coalition, Brandon Beigler… Gold Glove-winning center fielder for the New York Mets, Harrison Bader … D.C.-based reporter at The Wall Street Journal covering immigration policy, enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security, Michelle Hackman