American Jewish donor gives Bar-Ilan University $260 million

One of few facts the anonymous person wants known is that he is a Columbia University alumnus.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

An anonymous Jewish donor has just given Bar-Ilan University the second-largest gift ever received by an educational institution in Israel – $260 million.

One of the few facts that the benefactor wants known is that he is a Columbia University alumnus, the university announced.

This set off speculation that his donation is at least partly a reaction to the anti-Israel, violent protests that have rocked the New York school among dozens of other American universities over the course of the Israel-Hamas war, including illegal encampments that were set up on campus for weeks and verbal and physical assaults on Jewish students that made them fear going to class.

Other identifiers were that he is from North America, has visited Israel before, has “a broad academic education” and “participated in World War II,” the university said.

The last point would put the wealthy individual at the centenary mark in terms of age.

“The donor… believed that the development of Israel’s technological resilience rested first and foremost on groundbreaking science,” President Arie Zaban told the school’s board of trustees.

This is of foremost importance, he added, saying, “Our technological strength, based on science, is the key to a prosperous society and economy.”

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The donor chose Bar-Ilan to lead the way due to “its well-established scientific infrastructures and its deep involvement in the social life of Israel in all its nuances,” Zaban said.

The president commented that Bar-Ilan’s first order of business will now be to recruit dozens of outstanding researchers in Deep Tech sciences such as quantum, cyber, AI, energy, the environment, health, and engineering, “that will affect the future of Israel and humanity as a whole.”

The gift will also enable the university to “establish dozens of advanced research laboratories … and create innovation spaces, based on science, in cooperation with parties outside the academy such as the high-tech industry, the public sector and the health system,” Zaban explained.

This donation is the largest ever given to the school, which was ranked in 2022-2023 as being #750 among global universities according to the U.S. News and World Report.

When broken down by subject, it is closer to the top in such fields as nanoscience and nanotechnology (#232), materials science (#382) and physical chemistry (#348).

Bar-Ilan serves more than 17,000 students, from undergrads to doctoral candidates, and has an international student population of some 850 men and women.

The largest donation ever given to an institution of higher learning in Israel was a 2016 bequest of $400 million to Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, mainly for water research, from the estate of Dr. Howard and Lottie Marcus.