Quiet Couple Who Gave A $600M Fortune To Israeli University
The story of an unassuming couple who donated almost their entire fortune, of $600 million, to Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel, is revealed in a new documentary.
“Who Are The Marcuses?” explores how Howard and Lottie Marcus, both Holocaust survivors, accumulated such wealth through their shrewd investments with Warren Buffet, and why they chose to give it all away.
They were impressed by the university’s work in desalination, and believed that solving water scarcity in the region would be an important step towards creating a lasting peace.
The couple went on to make the largest-ever charitable donation to an institution based in Israel.
They donated $200 million during their lifetimes, and in June 2016 it was announced that they’d posthumously bequeathed $400 million, much of it for ongoing research at the university’s Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research.
They’d become friends with Warren Buffett – one of the most successful investors in the world with an estimated $110 billion fortune – in the 1960s, and joined his investment partnership.
The couple fled Nazi Germany in the 1930s, and lost most of their family members in the horrors of the Holocaust. Howard, who was a dentist, and Lottie, who worked as a secretary on Wall Street, met after the war in New York.
Despite the financial success they experienced, they barely touched their fortune and lived modestly in New York for most of their lives.
Howard died in 2014 aged 104 and Lottie died in December 2015, aged 99.
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The new documentary charting their lives will be screened at a film festival next month in California.
“Our film has powerful messages about climate change, water technology, the environment, and philanthropy that can change our world,” said Matthew Mishory, the film’s director.
“But films are also about storytelling, and this one tells a story so unbelievable and inspiring, it can only be true.
“Screening at Santa Barbara is a homecoming for me and a dream come true for the production team. The region is both a growing eco-technology hub and fragile coastal system.”
Buffett, who features in the documentary, said: “I met Howard and Lottie more than 50 years ago through a mutual friend.
“We hit it off and they joined my investment partnership. Knowing them, it comes as no surprise that they elected to use their financial success to enhance the lives of thousands of Israeli young people.”
The film will be screened at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival in California, which has been screening over 200 feature films and shorts from different countries and regions since 1986.