September 22, 2019

Tel Aviv University Honors the Samuelis

From left: Avi Issacharoff co-creator of the Israeli political thriller “Fauda”; Lior Raz, co-creator and star of the show; and Noa Tishby, Israeli actress, producer and singer.

Cocktail in hand, Gail Reiss, President and CEO of American Friends of Tel Aviv University (TAU), the stateside fundraising arm of Israel’s largest public university, summed up her elevator pitch to donors:

“I ask them, are you interested in Israel? Are you interested in education? Are you interested in investing in the next generation of thought leaders, not only for Israel, but for the world? If you are, Tel Aviv University is the place to be.”

More than 300 people convened at the Skirball Cultural Center on Dec. 12 for the TAU International Gala. The event honored renowned philanthropists Henry and Susan Samueli and highlighted the world-class research and innovation coming out of TAU. 

Guests schmoozed and flipped through pamphlets touting TAU achievements, including its history of producing founders of billion-dollar startup companies, where it is ranked ninth worldwide among universities. To date, TAU has been granted patents for more than 2,500 inventions. TAU also has a research partnership with cancer scientists at City of Hope in Duarte, Calif. 

“Living in Tel Aviv, you understand the university’s importance to the city, the community, to Israel and to the world,” Israeli actress and producer Noa Tishby, who emceed, the event told attendees. “Nothing embodies the spirit of Israeli resourcefulness, creativity and ingenuity, especially in the STEM fields, like Tel Aviv University.” 

As part of the evening, Tishby interviewed “Fauda” creators Lior Raz and Avi Issacharoff about their hit Netflix show. Issacharoff has a master’s degree from TAU. Another TAU alum, Gideon Raff, the creator of “Hatufim,” the Israeli show that was adapted into “Homeland” for American audiences, also attended the event. 

But the big stars of the evening were Orange County residents Henry and Susan Samueli, who were recognized for their philanthropic work with TAU. Henry is the co-founder of Broadcom Inc., and Susan heads up the Samueli Foundation, which backs nonprofits in education, integrative health, youth services and Jewish culture. 

The Samuelis, who own the Anaheim Ducks National Hockey League franchise, recently donated a $20 million gift to establish the Susan and Henry Samueli Engineering and Health Research Fund at the University. They’ll also name a new building currently under construction on the TAU campus, funded by Broadcom, which will house both Broadcom’s R&D Center in Israel as well as its Faculty of Engineering.

“It’s a pleasure for Susan and I to be here to show our support for Tel Aviv University,” Henry told attendees. 

Robin Schoenfeld, who lives in Tarzana and is a Valley Beth Shalom member, has been a longtime friend of the Samuelis since meeting Susan in a “Mommy and Me” class years ago. She told the Journal that their giving nature comes as no surprise to those who know them.  “They’re always looking outside of their own welfare and into benefiting the larger community,” she said.

Amiel Farnam, 33, a TAU alum, graduated last year with a master’s degree in Emergency and Disaster Management. He now works for the city of El Segundo as its Emergency and Disaster Manager, providing training and strategizing on everything from earthquake preparedness to domestic terrorism. 

“Being here gives me a feeling of pride,” he said. “It’s amazing to see that here, in Los Angeles, people are lined up to not only support, but also pay respect to Tel Aviv University for what it does for the community, Israel, the world and all the students that go there.” 

Orian Raviv, 21, is a student at the University of Southern California (USC). She attended the gala to represent USC’s Hillel and to learn more about TAU, since she hopes to attend its Sackler School of Medicine someday. 

“I tell all my friends I want to go to Tel Aviv University,” she said. “But it’s also really cool the ‘Fauda’ guys are here.” n