Josef Buchmann: A True Patriot of Israel
TAU benefactor and Vice Chairman of the Board of Governors Josef Buchmann is a builder, not just of visible towers and landmarks in his home city of Frankfurt, but of society, education and the arts. For nearly three decades Mr. Buchmann has played a vital role in building up Tel Aviv University, in fortifying the German-Israeli relationship, and in strengthening the State of Israel.
In 1982/3, Mr. Buchmann endowed the Josef Buchmann Doctoral Fellowship Fund jointly at Tel Aviv University and the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt. The fund was Buchmann’s first major gift to the University and marked the beginning of a 30-year relationship which continues to flourish. It was the first bi-national doctoral fund at TAU and it was, and still remains, the largest of its kind.
Advancing Israel’s brainpower
Since its founding, the Buchmann Doctoral Fellowship Fund has allocated a total of 333 student scholarships at Tel Aviv University in addition to dozens more at Goethe University.
Along with enabling gifted young people to excel in their doctoral studies without the worry of financially supporting themselves, the fellowships have advanced exchange, dialogue and understanding between Jews and non-Jews, Israelis and Germans. Buchmann fellows hail from all disciplines – medicine, exact sciences, engineering, life sciences, law, management, social sciences and humanities.
“The importance of the Buchmann Fund to higher education cannot be overstated,” says TAU President Joseph Klafter, “TAU’s PhD candidates are a pool of intellectual ability and talent. They are tomorrow’s researchers, innovators, teachers and public leaders.”
The program’s alumni go on to illustrious careers in academia, industry and the public sector: several are today distinguished professors at Tel Aviv University and other leading institutions of higher learning.
Upholding law and justice
Mr. Buchmann’s next major project at TAU was endowing the law school in memory of his parents, Eliezer and Haya Sara Buchmann, who perished in the Holocaust. Here, too, Mr. Buchmann helped build something meaningful for society and for Israel. The Buchmann Faculty of Law has evolved into the country’s most influential law school. The faculty is internationally recognized for its high quality research, practical training, and pursuit of social justice.
Dedication of the Buchmann Faculty of Law, 1994: From left, the late VP Public Affairs Yehiel Ben-Zvi, TAU President Yoram Dinstein and Josef Buchmann
Upon the dedication of the faculty in 1994, Buchmann described the naming in his parents’ memory as the “most important day of his life. In the light of my parents’ victimization by Nazi injustice, it is my profound hope that students of the faculty will be committed to upholding law and justice,” he said. The ceremony was held in the presence of Israeli President Ezer Weizman.
World-class music school
Buchmann’s vision for the University did not stop at the fellowships and the law school. He proposed to join three great loves – the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO), Zubin Mehta and Tel Aviv University – into one, groundbreaking project. Thus was born the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music. Dedicated in 2004, the school is now Israel’s leading institution in the field. Its activities are carried out in full partnership with the IPO and its honorary president and guiding personality is Maestro Zubin Mehta.
The School prepares the next generation of orchestral performers and conductors, not only for the Israel Philharmonic but also for the rest of the world. Students regularly perform alongside Israel Philharmonic players in cities around the world, including Berlin, Zurich, Taiwan, New York and South America. In a further step to build bridges between nations, Mr. Buchmann co-funds an international program that brings outstanding foreign students to Tel Aviv University to gain performance skills and to become musical ambassadors of Israel.
In 2008, the School’s orchestra played a special memorial concert for the United Nations General Assembly on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which coincided with the date Auschwitz was liberated. It was a defining moment for the Buchmann-Mehta School, for Israel, and for Mr. Buchmann personally. Ninety young students, some of whom were grandchildren of Holocaust survivors, performed before eighteen hundred diplomats from around the world, in a concert entirely sponsored by Mr. Buchmann, himself a Holocaust survivor.
For Mr. Buchmann, the event brought him full circle. From a young orphan liberated from the Bergen-Belsen death camp in 1945, Buchmann stood on the world stage, the proud sponsor of a project symbolizing Jewish continuity, Israeli cultural impact, and educational excellence. He saw it as an act of reconciliation, of building understanding between peoples, and of using music as an international language of the soul.
A child born into war and deprivation, a young boy orphaned by the Holocaust, a Jew who lost his entire community, traditions and culture, Josef Buchmann has devoted himself to helping others. He has helped sick people, poor and hungry people. He has personally welcomed new immigrants from Russia coming to Israel and made sure they received hot meals. He is also supporting a Chabad school in Israel, as well as providing hot meals to 250 pupils there.
He has donated medical equipment to save the lives of Israeli soldiers. He has given generously to hospitals and welfare organizations both in Germany and Israel, always with the goal of aiding people in need. Among these are the Buchmann Ward at the Sourasky Medical Center and the Buchmann Gynecology and Maternity Center at Tel Hashomer in Israel; and the Buchmann Children’s Hospital in Frankfurt. He is a longstanding benefactor of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.
Left: Inauguration of the Josef Buchmann Doctoral Fellowship Fund, 1984. Mayor of Tel Aviv Shlomo Lahat (left) with Josef Buchmann.
Right: Inauguration of the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music, 2005. From left, Bareket Buchmann, Yehiel Ben-Zvi, Josef Buchmann and Maestro Zubin Mehta.
In 1993, he was recognized by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin for his outstanding humanitarian contributions to the State of Israel in the field of education, health and welfare. For his extraordinary devotion to Israel and its achievements, he was given a special prize by the late President Ezer Weizman on the occasion of the State’s 50th jubilee, and was again acknowledged by President Shimon Peres during the country’s 60th anniversary celebrations.
Commemorating the Lodz Ghetto
Mr. Buchmann has also never forgotten his native city of Lodz, Poland. He provided day-to-day care for elderly Jewish survivors and financed the restoration of 6,000 Jewish graves. He also partnered in the Lodz Ghetto Memorial at the train station, Radegast, from which Jews of the Ghetto were deported to the death camps.
In 2009, on the 65th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto, he was decorated with the “Commander Cross with Star” of the Polish Order of Merit – the highest honor bestowed in Poland – by then President Lech Kaczyński. The award was in recognition of his contribution to deepening mutual understanding between Poles and Jews. During the same visit, he unveiled a memorial in Survivors Park honoring Poles who saved Jews during the war, which he supported in partnership with the Lodz municipality.
In 2011 Josef Buchmann was presented a Badge of Honor of Frankfurt by then Lord Mayor of the City of Frankfurt Petra Roth, a TAU honorary doctor. Buchmann began his path in the international business world in Frankfurt, his place of residence, where he built the city's first skyscraper - the Shell building - in the 1960s. Later on, he initiated the construction of the Twin Tower Deutsche Bank, a city landmark. He built a strong foundation for friendship and cooperation between Frankfurt and Tel Aviv. This friendship continues until today as a warm and positive force that unites the two cities.
Recently, Mr. Buchmann has provided support for the Buchmann Institute for Molecular Life Sciences at Goethe University, Frankfurt, an institute of some 150 researchers, many of whom work in collaboration with Tel Aviv University researchers. This is another step in Mr. Buchmann’s longtime efforts to forge ties between the two institutions.
TAU President Joseph Klafter described Buchmann as “a true patriot of Israel. Josef believes that a strong and well-developed Israel is necessary for the continuation of the Jewish people, and he is utterly devoted to the country and its citizens. Tel Aviv University would not be where it is today without the support of Josef Buchmann, a man of practical action, a doer and not a talker.”