newsSchools & Higher Education

American donor giving $5m to Israeli colleges after spurning Penn

“We shouldn’t be leaving because we are escaping antisemitism but because we have our ancestral Jewish homeland,” says entrepreneur.

American entrepreneur David Magerman (right) at a ceremony where his Tzemach David Foundation honored outstanding teachers in Israel's state religious educational system, held at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem, June 26, 2024. Photo by Yoseph Cohen.
American entrepreneur David Magerman (right) at a ceremony where his Tzemach David Foundation honored outstanding teachers in Israel's state religious educational system, held at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem, June 26, 2024. Photo by Yoseph Cohen.

An American-Jewish entrepreneur who has decided to reroute his philanthropy from U.S. colleges is donating $5 million to institutes of higher education in Israel.

The move comes as months of often violent antisemitic protests at universities across the U.S. have shaken American Jewry in ways not seen since World War II.

David Magerman of Pennsylvania told JNS Wednesday that he is giving an initial $1 million grant each to five Israeli schools, including the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan and the Jerusalem College of Technology, as well as two other institutions where the grants are still under discussion.

He halted his donations to his alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, over the administration’s handling of antisemitism on campus.

“The American Empire is ending and we learn from history that when empires fall the Jews die first,” he said in an interview conducted at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem. Magerman was there to attend a ceremony where his Tzemach David Foundation was honoring teachers in Israel’s state religious school system with awards for excellence in innovative education.

“In the past, we could never leave, but now we can come to our national homeland,” he said.

American philanthropist David Magerman speaks at a ceremony honoring Israeli teachers, held at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem, June 26, 2024. Photo by Yoseph Cohen.

Oct. 7 tipping point

Magerman said that he had already decided to divert his donations from Penn in the wake of the Palestine Writes festival held at the Ivy League school last September, which he noted was attended by a mix of antisemites and Hamas supporters.

The Oct. 7 Hamas-led onslaught, in which terrorists killed some 1,200 people and abducted about 250 others, triggered the Gaza war and spurred the violent antisemitic protests that led him to cut all ties with the university.

While other major Jewish donors demanded change and reform from the university, for Magerman it was the final straw. “I see who you are,” he said of Penn. “I’m out.”

He wrote an Oct. 15 letter addressed to the school’s leaders, accusing them of supporting evil with their silence about the Hamas massacres and calling on “self-respecting Jews, and all moral citizens of the world, [to] dissociate themselves from Penn.”

“It is not so much threats of physical violence but an undercurrent of feeling that you are unwanted and unappreciated,” Magerman said in the interview. “Seeing administrations and faculty either openly hating Jews or refusing to support Jewish students plays into the narrative that Israel is the oppressor.”

The venture capitalist, whose son would transfer out of Penn, said Oct. 7 was the tipping point that created an urgency for him to act. “I wished that I had been more concerned,” he said.

Entrepreneur David Magerman speaks with teachers from the Israeli state religious educational system, June 26, 2024. Photo by Yoseph Cohen.

Focus on Zion

It was two years ago that Magerman, who had previously been a prolific donor to Jewish education in the U.S., began thinking that the time had come to focus his funding on higher education in Israel, and that his earlier American-centered donations were making it easier for Jewish students to stay in the U.S.

He had become religiously observant and sensed for some years that Penn was scaling back on its acceptance of Orthodox Jews while the college atmosphere was fast deteriorating towards the woke ideology pervading American academia.

Relaunching his foundation, which works to integrate immigrants into the education system, under a new brand name (his erstwhile Kohelet Foundation could be mistaken for the NGO of the same name that backed the Israel government’s judicial reform effort), he focused on introducing preparatory programs at Israeli colleges for native English speakers, to teach them Hebrew and integrate them into the Jewish state’s education system.

While Magerman travels back and forth between the U.S. and Israel and has a daughter still in an American high school, he said that the future for the next generations of the Jewish people is unequivocally in Israel.

“We shouldn’t be leaving because we are escaping antisemitism but because we have an Israel and our ancestral Jewish homeland,” he said.

You have read 3 articles this month.
Register to receive full access to JNS.

Just before you scroll on...

Israel is at war. JNS is combating the stream of misinformation on Israel with real, honest and factual reporting. In order to deliver this in-depth, unbiased coverage of Israel and the Jewish world, we rely on readers like you. The support you provide allows our journalists to deliver the truth, free from bias and hidden agendas. Can we count on your support? Every contribution, big or small, helps JNS.org remain a trusted source of news you can rely on.

Become a part of our mission by donating today
Topics
Comments
Thank you. You are a loyal JNS Reader.
You have read more than 10 articles this month.
Please register for full access to continue reading and post comments.
Never miss a thing
Get the best stories faster with JNS breaking news updates