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A4BGU Secures Transformative $20 Million Donation

A4BGU Secures Transformative $20 Million Donation

May 12, 2022

Sustainability & Climate Change

NEW YORK, May 12, 2022 – Americans for Ben-Gurion University Secures $20 Million Donation for BGU’s School of Sustainability and Climate Change

Philanthropists Michael Sonnenfeldt and Katja Goldman have donated one of the largest single gift commitments in the history of Americans for Ben-Gurion University (A4BGU): $20 million. The donation establishes the new Goldman Sonnenfeldt School of Sustainability and Climate Change at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU), the first of its kind in Israel. Through innovative research and solutions, the new school builds on BGU’s history of developing groundbreaking technology to combat the climate change crisis.

“BGU is leading the world in adaptability research for climate change,” says Michael Sonnenfeldt, Goldman-Sonnenfeldt Foundation Inc. co-founder and president. “For decades, their researchers have been developing leading-edge technology to help Israel adapt to a harsh desert climate. Now that much of the rest of the world faces similar conditions, this research has global and urgent applicability. We are proud to contribute to BGU’s mission to address a global challenge with revolutionary solutions that allows humanity to survive, and thrive, amid global climate disruption.”

A serial entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist, Sonnenfeldt is also the founder of TIGER 21, the premier peer membership organization for high-net-worth entrepreneurs, investors and executives. For more than 30 years, he has dedicated his efforts to solving sustainability challenges from food supplies to energy and environmental issues.

“This transformational gift is a tremendous vote of confidence in BGU’s ability to effect change. For over 50 years we have been researching how to live in our desert. As the world is now coming to BGU to learn from this experience, with this gift, we are poised to leverage our experience for tackling a truly global problem,” says BGU President Prof. Daniel Chamovitz.

The gift was pledged through A4BGU, which maintains David Ben-Gurion’s vision for the Negev and the future of Israel through raising awareness, fundraising and programming to immerse the next generation of American leaders in both the Negev and BGU’s vital work. It comes just after A4BGU hosted its virtual event, Celebrating the Remarkable 2, to drive greater awareness of BGU’s climate change and environmental related research in the U.S.

“We are deeply appreciative of Michael Sonnenfeldt and his wife, Katja Goldman, for this remarkable gift – the third single largest donation in our history,” says Doug Seserman, CEO of A4BGU. “It couldn’t come at a more perfect time. Climate change is the largest challenge facing the planet. By leveraging more than fifty years of research expertise in combating desertification, BGU’s new School will ensure that a new generation of students and innovative scientists care for the planet for decades to come.”

Photo Credit: Dani Machlis

Over the past five decades, BGU researchers have developed sustainable technologies to tackle water and food scarcity amid a hostile and resource-strapped environment. BGU founded the new School in 2021 to leverage this rich history of cutting-edge research and the scientific talent across BGU’s three campuses located in Beer-Sheva, Sde Boker, and Eilat. This donation enables BGU to grow its life-changing research program across multiple disciplines, including agriculture, marine biology and alternative energy in its 150+ research labs. As a platform, the Goldman Sonnenfeldt School of Sustainability and Climate Change will enable the seamless integration of novel, multi-disciplinary approaches to education, research, and outreach as the world’s environmental needs evolve in the decades to come.

As a past national president of A4BGU from 1989 to 1991 and a national board member from 1991 to 2013, Sonnenfeldt is currently a member of the board of governors of BGU. With a long-time connection to BGU, Sonnenfeldt received an honorary doctoral degree in 1995. He established BGU’s Sonnenfeldt-Goldman Career Development Chair in Desert Research and named both the Joya Claire Sonnenfeldt Auditorium and the Forest Goldman-Sonnenfeldt Building for Solar Energy and Environmental Physics.



Chronicle of Philanthropy


New York Jewish Week 


Americans for Ben-Gurion University plays a vital role in maintaining David Ben-Gurion’s vision of an “Oxford in the Negev.” By supporting a world-class academic institution that not only nurtures the Negev, but also shares its expertise locally and globally, Americans for Ben-Gurion University engages a community of Americans who are committed to improving the world. The Americans for Ben-Gurion University movement supports a 21st century unifying vision for Israel by rallying around BGU’s remarkable work and role as an apolitical beacon of light in the Negev desert.

About Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev embraces the endless potential we have as individuals and as a commonality to adapt and to thrive in changing environments. Inspired by our location in the desert, we aim to discover, to create, and to develop solutions to dynamic challenges, to pose questions that have yet to be asked, and to push beyond the boundaries of the commonly accepted and possible.

We are proud to be a central force for inclusion, diversity and innovation in Israel, and we strive to extend the Negev’s potential and our entrepreneurial spirit throughout the world. For example, the multi-disciplinary School for Sustainability and Climate Change at BGU leverages over 50 years of expertise on living and thriving in the desert into scalable solutions for people everywhere.

BGU at a glance:  

20,000 students | 800 senior faculty | 3 campuses | 6 faculties: humanities & social sciences, health sciences, engineering sciences, natural sciences, business & management, and desert research.

Media Contact:

Brian Sherry

Stern Strategy Group


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