“Support Israel in every way you possibly can. Get people to understand Israel’s tremendous contributions to humanity,” said Lester Crown in a 2015 interview.

In outlining his devotion to Israel, Crown was not merely expressing a personal preference, but a long and distinguished family tradition of engagement and principled commitment to the Jewish state.

Lester’s mother, Rebecca, was active in Hadassah; his father, Henry, spent the 1930s trying to get Jews out of Germany and would later lobby for the creation of a Jewish state. After the creation of Israel in 1948, the nation was hampered in its ability to purchase the most vital military equipment. So the Israeli politician Teddy Kollek, later the longtime mayor of Jerusalem, asked Henry Crown to ship parts for airplane equipment to Israel. Crown’s contributions helped found Israel’s domestic-jet-production industry.

Throughout their lives, Henry and Rebecca were pillars of Zionism and philanthropy in Chicago.

While leading Henry Crown and Company in Chicago, Lester Crown has maintained the family’s proud legacy; the Crown Family Foundation has supported educational programs about Israel in America, as well as research institutions in Israel. The family endows a chair in Israel Studies at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., and supports the Crown Center for Middle East Studies at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., promoting desperately needed Israel studies in the American academy.

Convinced that economic development in Arab states and Palestinian areas could in the long run prove more valuable for peace than politics—however important peace negotiations may be—Lester Crown has fostered economic development in Palestinian areas and elsewhere in the Middle East, creating new business ties between Israelis and Arabs. These efforts have helped deepen economic ties throughout the region and worked to facilitate coexistence.

In profound ways, the Crown family has enabled Israel to be a great contributor to the human story.