I was shocked to hear this promotion of the Israeli Technion — which is partnering with Cornell to develop a new high-tech campus on Roosevelt Island in the East River opposite Manhattan — on WNYC radio yesterday. It’s by Stan Alcorn. I suppose we should be grateful to the reporter for reporting how much the Technion has depended on money from American Jews. But evidently our countries are now joined at the hip. Alcorn also focused on the role of military innovation in fostering the Technion, thanks to IDF veterans with mad skills. Good times.
The history of the Technion can be traced back to money from New York City.
The Technion was founded in 1912 with a donation from New York financier and philanthropist Jacob Schiff….
One hundred years later, the relationship between the Technion and New York continues.
The school’s operating budget comes from the Israeli government, but two-thirds of all private fundraising come from the U.S. – and the biggest donor region is the New York metro area, according to Melvyn Bloom of the American Technion Society, an affiliated fundraising organization.
The results can be seen on the Israeli campus: The computer science building is named after New Jersey payroll processing mogul Henry Taub. The Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute is named after a New Jersey philanthropist who made his money from Russ Toys, famous for its teddy bears. [Berrie foundation is in part dedicated to American Jewish continuity via a connection to Israel]
Local donors are excited about the Technion’s arrival in New York, and see it as an opportunity to replicate the innovation they see in Israel.
“It is like transferring something from one petri dish to another,” said Angelica Berrie, Russell Berrie’s widow and the head of his eponymous foundation.
But the role of the Technion in innovation may be inflated, some say. It is a part of Israel’s start-up ecosystem, but not necessarily the primary driver.
“It may be that the people who chose the Technion above other institutions in New York thought that because the Technion was in Israel and Israel is extremely entrepreneurial, Technion caused entrepreneurship,” said Dan Isenberg, writer and founder of the Babson Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Project. “It’s an optical illusion.”