New York gala celebrates Steinhardt Museum of Natural History
Pictured above rom left to right: Judy and Michael Steinhardt with daughter Sara Berman and grandsons Joshua and Jacob Berman.
Philanthropist, financier and investor Michael H. Steinhardt was honoree at the Annual Gala dinner of American Friends of Tel Aviv University, held at 4 World Trade Center, New York City. The event celebrated the imminent opening of the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History, Israel National Center for Biodiversity Studies at Tel Aviv University, the first and only center for natural history research and outreach in the Middle East.
The Museum will serve researchers, students, teachers and the wider community, including thousands of schoolchildren annually as well as tourists from abroad. It will form the centerpiece of the largest and most comprehensive center in Israel for biodiversity research, education and conservation.
The unique design of the building, covering more than 100,000 square feet and built by architect Michal Kimmel-Eshkelot, was inspired by Noah's Ark, a fitting tribute to the natural history collections it will house. Galleries and exhibition halls will display some of the 5 million specimens in the collections.
Co-chairs of the event were prominent philanthropists and humanitarians Charles Bronfman and Lynn Shusterman, who together with Steinhardt provided founding gifts to Birthright Israel. Attending were Chairman of the TAU Board of Governors Jacob A. Frenkel; TAU President Joseph Klafter; AFTAU National Chairman Richard Sincere; AFTAU President and CEO Gail Reiss; and TAU Vice President for Resource Development Amos Elad; as well as members of the Steinhardt family and of the American Friends.
In his address at the event, Prof. Klafter paid tribute to Michael Steinhardt as the “earliest advocate of the Museum project, its lead supporter and champion.” He noted that in their shared love of animals, Mr. Steinhardt and TAU professor Tamar Dayan, Head of the Museum, had become partners in a “vision to create Israel’s first and only Natural History Museum.”
“Michael’s determination amazes us. For the many long years this project took, he remained a believer and kept his eyes aloft. He was reinforced by Tamar, whose commitment to the Museum is legendary, and of course by his wife, Judy. We are proud of all that the Steinhardt name stands for – love of the natural world, love of education and love of Israel,” said Prof. Klafter.
Mr. Steinhardt, who is an honorary doctor of TAU and former Chairman of its Board of Governors, said, “I believe that the five million plus specimens that will be in the museum on opening day are already a dynamic record of Israel’s biodiversity and the history and evolution of humankind in the Middle East.It has been my privilege to work with Prof. Tamar Dayan and her team at TAU to help build this special home for them in Tel Aviv.”
"Michael has a profound sense of the role of higher education in society and a great love for animals and nature," said Prof. Dayan, who approached Mr. Steinhardt more than ten years ago to ask for his support of the Museum. " Michael is much more than a philanthropist in this project; he is a key partner."
The Steinhardt Museum, set to open in summer 2017, is "uniquely positioned to make fundamental contributions to the biological and human processes that linked Africa with the rest of the world," according to Stanford University Prof. Dr. Marcus Feldman, a member of the Steinhardt Museum International Scientific Advisory Board.
"Israel is the crossroads at which all plants, animals and humans moved from Africa to Europe and Asia. It is the only place in the world where you can see this historical depth," Feldman added. "In 10 or 20 years, the Steinhardt Museum will become a major world center for the study of biological systematics, evolution, paleo-ecology and paleo-anthropology."
Michael Steinhardt, Philanthropist
Michael H. Steinhardt is a legendary money manager turned philanthropist who is dedicated to creating a renaissance in American Jewish life. After he graduated from the Wharton School of Business in 1960, Mr. Steinhardt began his financial career as a research associate, staff writer and securities analyst. In 1967 he formed his own hedge fund company, Steinhardt Partners L.P., where he made his fortune in one of the most spectacular careers in the history of Wall Street.
In 1995, Michael Steinhardt stunned the financial world by announcing that he would close his lucrative hedge fund to devote his time and fortune to the causes of the Jewish world. Mr. Steinhardt directs his Jewish philanthropic activities through The Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life which he chairs.
Mr. Steinhardt co-founded Birthright Israel and continues to be a major supporter to this day. He serves as co-chair of the Areivim Philanthropic Group and supports the development of Hebrew Language Charter Schools, Hillel at the University of Pennsylvania, NYU's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, the University of Pennsylvania, TAU, and the Israel Museum. In 2001, Mr. Steinhardt published his memoirs, No Bull: My Life In and Out of the Markets.