American friends support Israel by giving to institutions

A lot of Israeli institutions are firmly on their feet thanks to the helping hand they’re getting from “friends” in the United States — organizations that raise millions of dollars to support their missions.

To aid their fundraising efforts, many Israeli organizations have branches in the Bay Area that not only raise money, but also stage lectures and other events that raise community awareness.

This helps ensure the future of Israel as well as improving humanity through discoveries made there.

From the Negev to Haifa, from Rehovot to Jerusalem, Israeli institutions have been on the cutting edge of important discoveries by tapping the country’s best natural resource: brainpower.

“Israel really has no natural resources other than their brainpower,” says Daphna Noily, regional director of American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. “The only way that’s going to be fostered and furthered is through higher education.”

Founded in 1969, Ben-Gurion University has the specific purpose of bringing higher education to the Negev region of Israel. AABGU was formed three years later, and Noily reports that her Corte Madera-based Northwest branch of the organization raises $4.2 million annually via grants, foundations and individual donations.

“People who are attracted to us care about Israel,” Noily says. “The second quality I’m looking for is someone who understands that higher education is really the key to Israel’s future. Without higher education, Israel won’t really be able to compete in the world marketplace.”

AABGU utilizes events such as parlor meetings to raise awareness, and it also has a one-day symposium scheduled for Jan, 11, 2009 at the Stanford Faculty Club. Open to the public, “Healing Our Bodies, Healing Our World” will honor AABGU President Carol Saal and will include keynote speaker Dr. Larry Brilliant, the director of Google’s philanthropic arm,

Another Israeli organization with an arm in the Bay Area is an international center of scientific research located in Rehovot, Israel. The American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science, which has an office in San Francisco, raises close to $100 million annually in the United States.

“Ninety-nine percent of our donors are from the Jewish community,” says Virginia Saifer, executive director of two ACWIS regions, the Bay Area and the Pacific Northwest. “We have science and educational forums that we invite our constituents to, as well as new individuals who we think might be interested. We have our scientists come to the United States and we have forums where we talk about the various types of science that’s going on at the institute.”

The Weizmann Institute has been the home to many significant discoveries, including two of the top medications for treatment of multiple sclerosis, pioneering noninvasive techniques for breast cancer detection, photochromism (eyeglasses that darken when exposed to sunlight) and developing higher-yielding strains of wheat. It is also conducting clinical trials for a vaccine for type-1 diabetes.

“The research that’s coming out of Israel is actually benefiting humanity,” says Saifer. “We look at Weizmann as Israel’s gift to the world, and this is how we promote ourselves.”

Another leader in science and technology is the Israel Institute of Technology (Technion), which is home to Israel’s first Nobel laureates, a fact not overlooked in the fundraising efforts of the American Society for Technion.

Jack Kadesh, director of the North Pacific Region, reports that his San Francisco-based office raises $11-$12 million per year of the national total of $90-100 million.

“Donors are very often contacted through our board members and primarily through previous supporters,” he says. “We do events all throughout the year, and very often our previous supporters who are invited will bring new guests, and that’s how we become acquainted. We talk to people … for two, three or four years, sometimes, before we talk about major gifts.

“We also bring people who have made major gifts on our annual missions to Israel and, hopefully, they end up becoming long-term supporters.”

Kadesh also reports great support coming from the Silicon Valley, “not just because Technion is Israeli, but because it’s one of the top research scientific universities in the world.” These types of supporters, he says, have more interest in science and technology than they do in Israel itself.

Technion’s efforts have produced a drug to slow the onset of Parkinson’s disease, a camera for gastro-intestinal examination that the patient swallows and cancer treatments.

Overall, these Israeli institutions find that the commitment from their American donors is based heavily on keeping Israel competitive in the global economy.

“The humanities are wonderful, but those aren’t the things that give Israel the edge to compete,” says Noily.

“[American Jews] are looking for the best way to support Israel,” adds Kadesh. “Many people find that supporting Technion is their way of supporting Israel.”

Contact information for giving locally

• American Committee for Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem

(415) 957-1288,, [email protected]

• American Committee for Weizmann Institute of Science

(415) 981-4001,, [email protected]

• American Friends of Tel Aviv University

(510) 444-6000,, [email protected]

• American Friends of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

(925) 974-3611,, [email protected]

• American Friends of Magen David Adom

(510) 487-3126, (650) 327-7840,, [email protected]

• American Society for Technion-Israel Institute of Technology

(415) 398-7117,, [email protected]

• Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America

(415) 771-5900,, [email protected]

• American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

(415) 927-2119,, [email protected]