Yeshiva University News » 2012 » May » 03

Donation to YU in Honor of David J. Azrieli’s 90th Birthday will Bolster School of Jewish Education

For most, birthdays are times for receiving gifts. For David J. Azrieli, however, a milestone birthday is the time to give a gift—a $10 million donation from the foundation he established to Yeshiva University’s Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration.

The $10 million donation to YU in honor of David J. Azrieli (pictured above) is the largest single donation ever made by the Azrieli Foundation.

The gift, in honor of Azrieli’s 90th birthday, is the largest single donation ever made by the Azrieli Foundation. It will strengthen the Azrieli Graduate School, named in 1983 to train Jewish educators, specifically teachers and administrators at Jewish day schools and other organizations across North America. As an expression of gratitude to David J. Azrieli the school dedicated its current issue of Prism, an Interdisciplinary Journal for Holocaust Educators, in his honor to mark this special milestone.

The Azrieli Graduate School is now the country’s largest post-graduate institution for Jewish education and has 260 students enrolled in various programs of advanced study, training and research in pursuit of master’s and doctoral degrees. The Azrieli School’s dean, Dr. David J. Schnall, recently announced that the school has received accreditation to award New York State Teacher Licenses in secular elementary, middle and high school subjects.

The $10 million will be used primarily to make available scholarships for the school and to help attract more men and women to the field of Jewish education.

“The entire Yeshiva University family is inspired and strengthened by this gift, especially during a time when Jewish education at North America’s more than 800 day schools is being challenged because of the economic downturn,” said YU President Richard M. Joel. “This historic gift will help graduate students pursue their career dreams and will strengthen the future of Judaism throughout hundreds of Jewish educational institutions.”

Azrieli, a Yeshiva University Trustee since 1987, escaped the Nazis and landed in Israel in 1942, where he served in Israel’s Seventh Brigade in the War of Independence. He studied architecture at Technion – Israel Institute of Technology before moving to New York, where he studied at Yeshiva University for a year. He eventually moved to Montreal, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Montreal’s Thomas More Institute. Azrieli, a life-long learner, earned his Master’s Degree in Architecture from Carleton University in Ottawa at age 75.

Azrieli is well-known in Canada, the US and Israel as a developer, architect and philanthropist. He revolutionized retail shopping in Israel, building the country’s first enclosed mall in 1985. Today, he owns 14 Israeli malls and coined the Hebrew word “canion” which combines the Hebrew words for “shopping and parking.”

As a philanthropist, Azrieli established the school of architecture at Tel Aviv University, a chair of architecture at Technion and the Azrieli Institute for Israel Studies at Concordia University in Montreal, where he lives.

He is a major donor to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem and inspired the Azrieli Holocaust Survivor Memoirs Program, which collects, publishes and disseminates the written memoirs of Holocaust survivors—a project that was initiated and is managed by his daughter, Dr. Naomi Azrieli, who chairs the Azrieli Foundation.

“The gift comes from a great personal friend and a truly heroic friend to Yeshiva University,” said Dr. Herbert C. Dobrinsky, YU’s vice president for university affairs, who encouraged David Azrieli to name the graduate school in 1983. “This and all of David’s gifts will help generations of Jewish children to know about their identity and their heritage.”

“My family and my father can think of no better way to celebrate a 90th birthday,” said Dr. Naomi Azrieli, who oversaw the gift. “Seeing young people graduate from this school and move on to teach Judaism to the next generation has been one of my father’s greatest joys.”

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Daniel Hershkowitz, Minister of Science and Technology, Shares Insight with Students

The Yeshiva University community enjoyed the opportunity to converse with and learn from Israeli Minister of Science and Technology Daniel Hershkowitz in a jam-packed evening on April 30.

Minister Hershkowitz meets with President Joel

Minister Hershkowitz and President Joel

Throughout the afternoon and evening, Hershkowitz met with students, faculty and administrators in a variety of settings to learn about the unique educational model of YU and share some of his insights.

“It is my first time at Yeshiva University and I am very glad to be here,” said Hershkowitz. “It would be wonderful if we had a similar kind of institution in Israel.”

Upon his arrival to the Wilf Campus, Hershkowitz was greeted by President Richard M. Joel and proceeded to meet with Yeshiva College Dean Barry Eichler and a number of senior faculty members to discuss common issues of interest regarding university life and current research underway at YU.

“As the day progressed, it was clear that YU had made a new friend with whom we could cooperate in our close relationship with the State of Israel as academics devoted to our teaching and research, and in the continued quest for strengthening Jewish life here and abroad,” said Dr. Lawrence Schiffman, vice provost for undergraduate education, who took part in a number of meetings with the minister throughout the evening.

At 8 pm, Hershkowitz delivered a short address in Furst Hall introducing an event sponsored by the Neuroscience Society, Medical Ethics Society, Yeshiva College Biology Majors Board, the Yeshiva College Philosophy Club, the Honors Program and the Stern College for Women Neuroscience Club.

The minister described the fast paced rate of technological change wrought by advancements in computer technology. To illustrate this, he offered as an anecdote a common occurrence that he encountered as a graduate student: when he discovered a citation for a journal article not held by his library, he would have to send away for it, often to another country. “If I was lucky,” he said, “I would receive the article in a month. Now with computer databases, I can retrieve an article in seconds.”

Minister Hershkowitz met with Provost Lowengrub (left) and members of the YU faculty.

According to Hershkowitz, this improvement has led to an explosion of new research and journal publications, allowing people to delve deeper into sub-specialties of specific disciplines than ever before. With people so hyper-specialized, Israel now encourages more interdisciplinary collaboration in the sciences in order to maximize its scholars output and creativity. This is why Israel is currently focusing the attention of its research centers on the four interdisciplinary fields of neuroscience, marine biology, nanotechnology and computer technology. “When different fields come together, we can do amazing things,” said the minister.

In closing, the minister offered a parable from the Book of Exodus to describe the compatibility of scientific inquiry and Jewish culture that he was pleased to encounter at YU.

“We were delighted to have Minister Hershkowitz address the Neuroscience Society,” said Neuroscience Society President Daniel First. “Neuroscience is one of the hottest fields of scientific research today, and it was fascinating to hear how Israel is playing a prominent role in its advancement.”

Minister Hershkowitz earned a doctorate in mathematics from the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology in 1982. He has served as the rabbi for the Ahuza community near the northern Israeli city of Haifa. In early 2009, he won a seat in the Knesset as the Chairman of the Habayit Hayehudi party, a national religious party, and was shortly thereafter named Minister of Science and Technology.

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