A Royal Get Together

Sometimes it takes a prince.  Last month British Prince William made a royal debut visit to the land of Israel. Other than his father Charles’ condolence funeral visit to the country’s assassinated leader Yitzchak Rabin in 1995, this was really the first time a royal had made a visit to Israel, indicating renewed strength and global recognition of this tiny democratic country in the Middle East.

What was most notable about William’s visit was his commendation of how far Israel has come, both as a startup techno nation and as a full-fledged investment partner.  As well as meeting with Palestinian leaders within his tour of Jerusalem’s holy sites, the visit showed how Christians, Jews and Muslims can – and do – co-exist, despite the ongoing issues.

Meeting up with Israel’s latest Eurovision Song Contest winner Neta Barzilai in Tel Aviv, the Prince then joined young entrepreneurs in the city as part of his trip’s focus – youth and innovation.

Back in Jerusalem, he wrote the message “May the God of peace bless this region and all the world with peace,” in the official guest book of the Western Wall.  Around the world leaders and lay individuals hoped that this would reach their G-d quickly and painlessly.



Portland’s “Queen of the Arts” Arlene Schnitzer Gives with her Whole Heart

Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in 2011. Photo courtesy Another Believer.

Arlene Schnitzer is a well-known philanthropist and is especially involved in supporting the arts. She was born in 1929 in Salem, Oregon. Her parents were Simon and Helen Director, who moved with her to Portland when she was two years old.

When she was 20 years old Arlene married Harold Schnitzer. He founded Harsch Investment Properties in 1950, and the couple had a son, Jordan, in 1951.

During the almost 20 years between 1993 and 2011 the Schnitzers gave away over $80 million to causes such as the Harold Schnitzer Diabetes Health Center at the Oregon Health & Science University; and to expand the Portland Art Museum.

After a 62-year marriage Harold passed away in 2011. Two years later, in memory of her husband, Arlene gave $2.3 million to the Portland State University to build a three-story glass tower at Lincoln Hall. The couple had both attended high school there.

Arlene founded and directs the Fountain Gallery. She created the gallery in 1961, to showcase artists specifically hailing from the Pacific Northwest. Some have labeled The Fountain as Portland’s first “serious” art gallery.

Arlene is Portland’s “Queen of the Arts,” with a concert hall, the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, and museum sections, the Schnitzer Gallery of American Art, named in her honor.

Gonda Gives Back

surgeryLeslie Gonda (1919-2018) during his lifetime gave extremely generously with a focus on the medical industry.  Some examples of Gonda’s generosity includes Rochester, MI’s Mayo Clinic where one can find a building named for him. In addition, the UCLA Medical Center was built from his generosity and today there stands a Gonda Neuroscience and Genetics Research Center and the Gonda Diabetes Center.  He also gave generously to the City of Hope Cancer Center.

Leslie Gonda did not restrict his generosity to medical institutions.  It was due to him that the Washington DC’s Holocaust Museum learning center exists and in 1999 he donated a staggering $60 million to the Smithsonian Institution.  As well Bar Ilan’s (Israel) University features both The Leslie and Susan Gonda Multidisciplinary Brain Research Center and Leslie and Susan Gonda (Goldschmied) Nanotechnology Triplex.

During his 98 years, Leslie (and his wife Susan) Gonda made a huge impact – for the betterment – on many worthy institutions, most notably in health, education and culture.


From Russia with Love: Jewish Identity and Cancer Research are Top Issues for Alexander Knaster

Born in 1959 in Russia, Alexander Knaster arrived in the United States with his family when he was 16 years old. His parents were both academics, his father, Mark, owning several patents for his inventions connected to metal coatings, batteries and solar cells; and his mother, Tatyana, a civil engineer who was a professor at the Pennsylvania Institute of Technology.

Knaster graduated from Carnegie Mellon University, and in 1980 he went to the Gulf of Mexico to work for Schlumberger as an engineer on oil platforms.

He received an MBA from Harvard Business School and started to work at investment banks. He went back to Russia as a CEO of a Russian branch of Credit Suisse First Boston. While in Russia he earned a PhD in Economics from the Russian Academy of Science.

Knaster launched Pamplona Capital Management in 2004. As of 2013 Pamplona managed over $6.5 billion in assets.

Many institutions are the recipients of the generosity of Alex Knaster. Among them are the Carnegie Mellon University and Harvard Business School. He created a scholarship fund with Bruce McWilliams, and also established the Alexander M. Knaster Scholarship Fund for undergrads in the Dept. of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Carnegie Mellon.

With three fellow former Russians Mikhail Fridman, Pyotr Aven, and German Khan, and Stan Polovets, Knaster founded the Genesis Philanthropy Group. The purpose of the group is to awaken and develop Jewish identity among Jews that speak Russian all across the world.

Four years ago Knaster created The Mark Foundation for Cancer Research. He moved most of his assets to this foundation and has plans to develop it to become a leading global donor to early stage cancer research.

A Man of Many Talents: Sigi Ziering

One small article cannot begin to capture the special quality of Siegfired Ziering. Well-known as a business exec, a scientist, a playwright and a philanthropist, this German-born Jewish man gave of himself to the full.

Born Siegfried, but known as Sigi to his friends and family, Ziering was caught in Europe as a child with his mother and brother during World War II. They managed to survive the Holocaust and were saved by the Swedish Red Cross. In 1949 Ziering came to the US with his family. He earned his degree in Physics from Brooklyn College and received a doctorate in theoretical physics from Syracuse University in 1958.

He began his career at Raytheon working on nuclear reactors in Boston. In 1961 he founded Space Sciences Inc, a government contract research company based in Massachusetts. Only 7 years later the Whittaker Corporation bought Ziering’s company for $1.8 million. With some money in hand Ziering took his family to Los Angeles, where he became the research director at Whittaker.

Later Ziering bought out another company, Diagnostic Products Corp which made drug detection kits. In 1982 this company went public. By 2000 the company had 1700 workers and was selling 400 immunoassay tests and associated equipment. In 2006 Siemens bought the company for $1.86 billion and became one of its subsidiaries, Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics.

Ziering wrote a play about an historical figure during the Holocaust, The Judgement of Herbert Bierhoff. The play was first performed in September 1999 with a cast including Jon Voight and Cloris Leachman.

Sigi Ziering was a dedicated philanthropist to Jewish causes. He was the President of Temple Beth Am in Los Angeles, endowed a program at Sheba Medical Center in Israel, and was on the Board of Trustees of the American Jewish University in Bel Air. He was also the co-chair of the Los Angeles section of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC.

Sigi died in 2000 of a brain tumor. His memory will always be for a blessing.

Passing of Susan Wakil

Susan Wakil recently passed away aged 85. Throughout her 62-year marriage to Isaac Wakil, she made a tremendous difference to the lives of many individuals in her community as well as supporting various foundations.  Indeed, the generosity she extended in her life was termed “exceptional” by Vic Alhadeff, CEO of NSW Jewish Board of Deputies.

Wakil supported the Sydney Jewish Museum and Robert Schneider its development director said that:

“Her name will live on at the museum through the Susan Wakil AO Chair of Education, and also through the dedication, by Susan, in 2015 of the museum’s lower ground floor in memory of her late parents.”

This sentiment was echoed by Peter Wertheim, Chairman of the Fund for Jewish Higher Education who said that Susan and Isaac had been “wonderfully generous benefactors….[with their] support [making] a significant contribution to tertiary-level Jewish studies and teacher training at the University of Sydney.”

Other tributes that came in included those from key leaders at the Australasian Union of Jewish Students, the University of Sydney and the Art Gallery of NSW Board of Trustees, St. Vincent Hospital, disadvantaged school students, among others. The Wakils received the Australian Award in 2017.

Jewish People like to Give

givingThere is a fundamental principle in Judaism of giving to worthy causes.  A report in a charitable analysis organization Connected to Give, a few years ago found that “most American Jews are charitable.”

And it’s not just to their own that they are giving.  The report further discovered that of those Jews who give (more than three-quarters), 92% give to a non-Jewish organization and 79% to a Jewish one.

According to the National Study of American Jewish Giving and the National Study of American Religious Giving, in 2012 median annual donations totaled $1,200.  It also seems that the more involved the Jewish people are in “causes connected with their faith”

It seems also that Jews are more generous than their non-Jewish counterparts, given that:

“Fifty-four percent of Jews in the study are more likely to give to social-service charities than to their religious congregations, compared with 41 percent of donors in the study who are not Jewish.. based on a survey of 2,911 Jewish and 1,951 non-Jewish households, as well as a series of focus groups that included Jewish donors, leaders of Jewish nonprofits, and advisers to foundations and Jewish donors.”

Data shows again and again that giving to charitable causes is important to Jewish people.