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$100 Million Gift Given to BGU to Pave Way Forward

$100 Million Gift Given to BGU to Pave Way Forward

December 12, 2023

Leadership, Awards & Events, Social Sciences & Humanities, Sustainability & Climate Change

Sylvan Adams speaks at the Ben-Gurion University Negev Strong Gala in Toronto on Dec. 3, 2023.

eJewishPhilanthropy — Sylvan Adams, the Canadian-Israeli real estate mogul and philanthropist, donated $100 million to Ben-Gurion University in southern Israel last week, his largest single charitable contribution ever, which he told eJewishPhilanthropy will hopefully benefit the university, the region, the country and the planet.

Though the gift was largely left up to the university to decide how to allocate, Adams and BGU reached an “understanding” that a significant portion of it would go toward the university’s Sde Boker campus, the Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research, which houses graduate-level programs focus on desertification, environmental studies, water management and other climate sciences.

Adams said his decision to donate the $100 million to the university, which he’s been involved with as a donor for years, came as a direct result of the Oct. 7 attacks in southern Israel. Among the victims were more than 80 members of the BGU community. “Our students, staff and faculty persevered in the face of one of our country’s darkest moments. This gift comes at the perfect time for renewal,” Mitchell Oelbaum, president of the Canadian fundraising arm of BGU — Ben-Gurion University Canada — said in a statement.

To explain his interest in BGU, the only university in southern Israel, Adams often quotes Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, who famously said, “Israel’s future lies in the Negev.”

“[Hamas] perpetrated the worst attack, the worst day of Jewish deaths since the Holocaust,” Adams said. “So this enormous donation, this enormous investment in the south, specifically in the education of our youth who are the future, is my answer to Oct. 7 — to tell everyone, our enemies, our friends and the whole world, that we are here to stay. And I am investing serious money to emphasize that point.”

BGU President Daniel Chamovitz said in a statement the university is “profoundly grateful to the Sylvan Adams Family Foundation” for the donation.

“This gift will help guide the way forward for our community as we look to rebuild an even stronger Negev, together. We enter this next stage with a focus on six key areas of impact, among them: the future of the Negev and Israel; technologies for the future; climate change; sustainability and the environment; and global health,” Chamovitz said.

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