Jerusalem, Israel - Nov. 22, 2016 - Since the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem opened its doors in 2014, it has hosted elegant weddings and international conferences. On November 17-18, 2016, it was the setting for the E. David Fischman Scholarship Conference, which was a one-of-a-kind, unique event.
The ballroom was decorated with dozens of tables with fresh flowers, as it would be for a beautiful dinner. Opening remarks from Israeli Deputy Minister for Diplomacy MK Michael Oren, and were followed by greetings from former IDF Chief of General Staff Benny Gantz. However, only two people present actually knew their host personally, since he died over twenty years ago.
To understand the background of this event, one has to go back to Europe and World War II. Edward David Fischman was a Polish businessman, married with a child. While away from home on a business trip, the Nazis rounded up and later murdered his wife and only child. From his entire family, Fischman was the only one to survive the Holocaust.
Immigrating to the US, Fischman headed out to the mid-western state of Minnesota. In 1949, he arrived in St. Paul, where he lived a modest, quiet life. He never remarried. He lived alone for the rest of his life "with his nightmares." But Fischman was serious about learning. It was at a weekly Bible class that he became close with one rabbi.
Rabbi Morris Allen of St. Paul, MN, introduced Fischman's legacy to those assembled for the 20th anniversary of the E. David Fischman Scholarship Conference. Though he lived very modestly in what appeared to be a minimal existence, Fischman invested in real estate, and left an estate of millions of dollars. After his death,”the Jewish people and Jewish state became his inheritors," said Allen.
The delegation attending from Jewish Federation of Greater St. Paul was led by Dan Lepow, and included Fischman's attorney, William M. Kronschnabel. Having drawn up the will and trust, Kronschnabel was able to answer questions about the scholarships and the conference.
Firstly, Fischman's vision was to provide scholarships for Israeli graduate students to get elite degrees in the United States. He designated Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Princeton, MIT, Sanford and New York University, as the sole options. Another stipulation was that in order to receive a top-level education for free, the recipient had to return and work in Israel after five years. Fischman also insisted that the scholarships be awarded only for the fields of law, economics and political science.
For the past twenty years, 40-50 students have applied each year. From their impressive resumes, twelve were selected to be interviewed. Rabbi Allen has been the only inconstant member of selection committee over the past two decades. Each year, one or two scholars are selected to receive the money and travel to the US to study. A total of 71 young Israelis have received advanced educations from the E. David Fischman Scholarships.
One recipient, Lieutenant Colonel Dr. Eran Shamir-Borer, was raised on a kibbutz, and studied at Harvard Law School. Borer spoke at the opening event on "Zionism through My Ages." While his grandfather worked as a construction worker to build Israel, Shamir-Borer serves in the Israel Defense Forces as Head of the Strategic Affairs Branch of the International Law Department.
"If Mr. Fischman could be here with us today, he would be amazed to see how his gift has helped so many exceptional scholarship recipients and contributed greatly to Israeli society. He would be proud that his Zionistic vision had come to fruition, and his gift continues to provide higher education and life-changing experiences for some of Israel's most outstanding minds. He would feel comforted that his investment in future Israeli leaders has not been depleted; rather, it continues to grow and provide his unique scholarship in perpetuity," wrote Dan Mogelson, scholarship administrator for the St. Paul Federation in a welcoming letter.
Another featured alumni speaker was Dr. Orly Lobel, Professor of Employment Law at University of San Diego, who specializes in intellectual property and markets. In her talk "Secret and Sparks," Lobel said the new reality is not safeguarding secrets, but of sharing information, "Loose Lips Will Build Ships."
The last presentation of the formal program was by Professor David Passig - Futurist, "The Future of Israel & World Jewry-2050."
Who knows what will really happen tomorrow. In 1950, no one predicted the numbers of Jews living in Israel today. While Edward David Fischman died without family heirs and was buried in a St. Paul cemetery under a simple stone, his soul and legacy lives on in Israel.
Attorney Kronschnabel noted Fischman's will and trust stipulated a conference of scholarship alumni is to be held every twenty years. Further, the conference is to be held in Jerusalem.
The secret of the generous scholarship grants is out. Will more Israelis apply? Will new beneficiaries take up the Fischman's vision to build bridges between America and Israel? Will more grants be forthcoming? Who will be attending the E. David Fischman Scholarship 40th Anniversary Conference in Jerusalem?
Very appropriate, Lior Manor, mentalist and telepathy artist, acted as master of ceremonies for the impressive event.