(April 3, 2018 / Embassy of Israel in Washington, D.C.)
The great medieval sage Maimonides noted the importance of both the “welfare of the soul” and the “welfare of the body.” Though spiritual matters were ultimately on a higher plane, the spirit could not flourish if the body was neglected. Lynn and Charles Schusterman have strengthened both the body and soul of the Jewish people and the Jewish state.
Born in Kansas City, Missouri, Lynn Schusterman was raised in Oklahoma City by her Jewish mother and stepfather. As a child, her stepfather, an investment manager, would take her to meet with widows in order to teach them to manage their finances. At a young age, she learned the importance of tikkun olam.
Lynn later moved to Tulsa and married Charles Schusterman, the founder of Samson Resources, one of the largest independent oil and gas companies in the United States. Lynn remembers her second date with her husband fondly. He was busy assisting the United Jewish Appeal, and it was at this time that she learned they were both passionate about helping others. The Schustermans demonstrated their commitment to that principle in 1987 by setting up their Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, a foundation which has become one of the nation’s most important charities.
The foundation supports efforts to improve public education in the United States, enhance the quality of life in the Schustermans’ hometown of Tulsa, and strengthen the Jewish community and Israel. After Charles Schusterman passed away in 2000, Lynn took charge of the family’s giving and became a major trailblazer in the world of Jewish philanthropy and a role model to other women who hope to play a greater role in philanthropy.
Through her giving, she strives to “forge a culture in which inclusivity, diversity and equality are paramount,” she says, and gives generously to causes in support of LGBT Jews, education, entrepreneurship, innovation, and Israel advocacy. Among the major groups she has funded are the Israel on Campus Coalition, an organization dedicated to ensuring fair representation of Israel at universities; the Israel Institute, which is building the field of Israel studies in the U.S. and around the world; the Succat Shalom Center for Children and Families, an emergency shelter in Jerusalem for those in need; and the Schusterman Center for Jewish Studies at Brandeis University. Schusterman is also a founding member of Birthright Israel, a program which brings young Jews to Israel to deepen their connection with the Jewish state.
Schusterman’s commitment to Israel reaches beyond monetary contribution. In 2006, after Israel was barraged by rockets from Hezbollah, her foundation sent emergency aid as well as almost 600 young volunteers from 17 countries to refurbish communities in the north of Israel.
Through their far-sighted generosity, the Schustermans have strengthened Jewish body and soul alike.