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Lynn Schusterman

Lynn Schusterman

Lynn Schusterman

Amount donated: $590m

Philanthropic Causes: Education, Jewish community.

Region of philanthropic focus: United States, Israel.

Ranking: 19th on Forbes’ America’s 50 Top Givers list in 2014

Net Worth: $3.4bn according to Forbes as of April 2016

Lynn Schusterman is recognised as a pioneer for women in philanthropy. Through the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, the 77-year-old and her family have donated $590m to charity since 1987, focusing on Jewish causes around the world and organisations in Oklahoma.

Born in 1939 to a German-Jewish family, Schusterman was raised in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Schusterman’s late husband, Charles, was the founder of Samson Investment Company, the largest privately held company of crude oil and natural gas in the United States. Charles was born in the Soviet Union in 1945, the son of Sarah Goldstein, a Jewish emigrant from Riga, Latvia, and Sam Schusterman, a Jewish emigrant from Minsk, Belarus. The family later emigrated to the United States, making Tulsa, Oklahoma, their home.

Lynn and Charles married in 1962 and went on to have two sons, Hal and Jay, a daughter, Stacy, and six grandchildren. They resided in Tulsa until Charles died from Leukaemia in 2000.

During his lifetime, billionaire Charles and his wife Lynn vowed to give back to the Jewish people and their community in Tulsa. The couple founded the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation in 1987, with the commitment to give young people ‘the knowledge, self-confidence and experiences they need to better their lives and, in turn, become leaders in their communities, the Jewish world and beyond’. The Foundation’s work is focused on four primary areas: National education, Jewish identity and community, Israel and Tulsa, Oklahoma.

One of the principle aims of Schulsterman’s philanthropy is to ‘spread the joy of Jewish living, giving and learning’. Among the Jewish charities she supports are: BBYO, Keshet, Moishe House, Birthright Israel, Repair the World and Hillel. In 1994, Schulsterman helped found a branch of Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life in the Former Soviet Union with the aim of reconnecting ‘reconnect thousands of Jews, once denied access to their heritage, with Judaism and the Jewish people’. Since 1998, Schulsterman has also gave over $6m to the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, Israel.

Education is another huge focus for Schulsterman, in both Oklahoma and Israel. The Foundation has made millions of dollars’ worth of grants to the Israel Arts and Science Academy, the University of Oklahoma, Brandeis University and The University of Texas at Austin. Schulsterman is also a supporter of Teach For America and Teach For All and was instrumental in establishing Teach For America to create a corps in Tulsa and Israel. She has also dedicated herself to the prevention of child abuse both in Tulsa and Jerusalem, where she helped establish the Haruv Institute.

Schulsterman’s philanthropic efforts have not gone unnoticed by the wider world, and in 2007 she received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. A year later she revived the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Public Service award and she has also been named one of the ‘Forward 50’, a list of newsworthy and notable Jews by the Forward newspaper, five times.

In 2011, Schulsterman joined the likes of Warren Buffett and Bill Gates in signing the Giving Pledge, committing to donate the majority of her wealth to philanthropy. In her commitment letter, Schulsterman pointed to one of her earliest memories as the inspiration behind her philanthropy. “I was raised in a household in which giving back was a core value. One of my fondest childhood memories is holding my father’s hand as he visited less fortunate elderly people who had no one else to care for them,” she wrote. Later in the letter, Schulsterman defined the motivation behind establishing her Foundation. “We believe in the importance of investing in young people by providing them with educational experiences of high quality and by nurturing their creativity,” she said.


Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation

Charles Schusterman Wikipedia

Giving Pledge

Lynn Schusterman Forbes

Lynn Schusterman Wikipedia

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