Schusterman Foundation makes largest single gift following difficult year at school
Brandeis University was the beneficiary of a multimillion dollar donation last week that aims to advance Israel studies on campus.
On June 15, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation announced that it bestowed $15 million upon Brandeis to establish a center that will stimulate scholarship and teaching on the Jewish state's history, language and culture.
The gift – which is one of the largest donations ever received at Brandeis and the largest single commitment ever made by the Schusterman foundation – comes at a time when the Waltham university has been dealing with criticism for inviting former President Jimmy Carter to the school in January to speak about the Middle East and his latest book, "Palestine Peace Not Apartheid."
Following the Carter controversy, the Advocate reported that some major donors – both current and potential – were reconsidering their gifts, while others had allegedly pulled their funds from the university. But Brandeis President Jehuda Reinharz insists that the school's financial situation has been on track.
"I think this donation proves that donors have much more faith in us than some of the people in the media," said Reinharz, speaking to the Advocate from Morocco. "This is going to be the biggest fundraising year in the history of Brandeis."
While Reinharz declined to give specific figures on this year's finances, he noted that last year the university received an all-time high of more than $81.3 million in cash gifts.
And this latest donation from the Schusterman Foundation is expected to make Brandeis even more appealing to donors, as the goal of the new center, which opens in September, is to bring the most qualified academic scholars to teach graduate-level students and others about Israel, Reinharz added. The $15 million gift will be matched by donors recruited by the university in coming years as part of a plan to create a $30 million endowment for the center by 2015.
"Our aim first and foremost is a scholarly one," Reinharz said. "This is not going to be an advocacy center, but a center that will bring knowledge and experience to the whole field of Israel studies. This is really going to benefit higher education in the United States and beyond because it will prepare a cadre of scholars who will be well-versed [on Israel]."
Lynn Schusterman, who spoke to the Advocate from Jerusalem, said she has been working with Reinharz for the past three years to establish this center. She added that Brandeis was a clear choice for the donation because her foundation is pleased with the university's current work at the Tauber Institute: Summer Institute for Israel Studies.
"We believe that there are a lot of resources that can be drawn together to create a top quality, robust center," Schusterman said.
The Schusterman foundation is now in the process of looking at other college locations to build Israel studies centers, including the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Oklahoma.
Added Schusterman: "I think with everything that's going on in the Middle East, it's very important to educate the next generation of Israel scholars."