By Bluma Gross, News Editor
Editor’s Note: This article has been modified to reflect that the donated artwork was included in the overall donation.
On January 31, 2022, President Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman announced that the Belz family has donated $20 million, including a private collection of fine Judaica and artwork valued at approximately $6 million to Yeshiva University. The donation will go towards modernizing and renovating classrooms and administrative offices on Wilf Campus’s Furst Hall in Washington Heights.
The donation will fund renovations in Yeshiva University’s bedrock academic building in the Wilf campus. The building, known currently as Furst Hall, will be renamed the Belz Building. The Belz family’s gift includes Jack and his wife Marilyn’s, z”l, lifetime collection of Judaica and artwork. The collection will be displayed for the student body and will be open to the public on permanent display on the first floor of the Belz Building.
Dr. Berman expressed gratitude to the Belz family saying,“[the Belz family’s] lifelong dedication to educating our students, the leaders of tomorrow, reflects the multigenerational partnership between the Belz family and Yeshiva University. I am deeply grateful for our personal friendship and for this extraordinary gift which will profoundly elevate and enhance the YU experience for our students, faculty and entire community.”
This is not the first time the Belz family has contributed to the structural and academic growth of Yeshiva University. In 1984, Philip Belz, the Memphis based philanthropic patriarch of the Belz family, established the Belz School of Jewish Music and was an active member of Yeshiva’s Board of Trustees until his passing in 2000. Now, 38 years later, his son Jack, a Trustee Emeritus on Yeshiva’s board, has continued in his father’s philanthropic footsteps.
The Belz family’s gift is part of YU’s “Rise Up: The Campaign for 613” initiative. Initiated by President Berman in December of 2021, the Rise Up campaign has already raised $256 million according to the campaign’s website. According to the December 2021 press release, the donations “will fund scholarships, facilities and faculty/programs to position the University for continued success.”
Some students on the Beren campus have expressed their desire for increased funding as crucial facilities, like the elevators, have been seriously malfunctioning for years. SCW Freshman Racheli Jian (SCW ‘25) shared with the Observer, “as grateful as I am to the Belz family, as a SCW student I wonder why the women of YU seem to be ignored. On the other hand, if this donation was meant to be allocated to both campuses, why was it advertised as only funding the Wilf campus?”
Students on the Wilf Campus are reasonably thrilled with the news of the Belz gift. An anonymous student (YC ‘23) told the YU Observer that “to see people willing to donate so much towards the education of the next generation of Jews is truly awe inspiring.”
Jack Belz concluded in the blog post expressing, “We have always recognized and admired Yeshiva University and its national and international reputation as the flagship Jewish university that provides a remarkable multifaceted education for its men and women students in their pursuit of excellence in both Jewish education and general education as they pursue such varied careers as rabbinics, law, medicine, psychology, science, finance and other areas.”