Besen family grants ‘from the heart’

Eva and Marc Besen.

THE Besens are commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Besen Family Foundation with a program of significant multi-year grants reflecting the history of the family’s philanthropy.

Focusing on education, medical research, mental health, promoting tolerance and compassion and supporting Indigenous land rights and conservation, the grants will celebrate four decades of the foundation.

The program comprises five projects, including an Israeli high school, wetlands preservation in NSW, Alzheimer’s research in Melbourne, setting up an Israeli equivalent to Australia’s R U OK (“Are you okay?”) mental health day, and a Gallery of the Permanent Museum Display at the Jewish Holocaust Centre (JHC).

In western NSW, the Great Cumbung Wetlands – described as “the most valuable private conservation-focused purchase in Australia’s history” – will be dedicated on more than 33,000 hectares of property acquired by the foundation in partnership with the Nature Conservancy and other philanthropic foundations. The program will protect the land for conservation and enable its transfer to co-ownership with the traditional owners, the Nari Nari people.

At the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne, the foundation has partnered with the Myer family’s Yulgilbar Foundation to fund the Young Clinicians’ Program for Alzheimer’s Research over five years, to collaborate across a range of medical and scientific disciplines and to research treatments for Alzheimer’s. 

Partnering with Israeli group ENOSH – an Israeli support group for those with psychiatric disabilities and their family members – the foundation will replicate R U OK? Day, focusing on Israeli schools and workplaces, and across social media.

At the JHC, the foundation’s work to develop the Gallery of the Permanent Museum Display is part of the centre’s capital campaign to redevelop facilities in Elsternwick. 

Meanwhile, as reported in The AJN last month, at Ramat HaNegev in southern Israel, the first local high school funded by the Besen Family Foundation will open on September 1. 

Asked by his granddaughters about what inspired his generous spirit, Marc Besen reflected, “You can’t really reduce the act of giving to words. It’s not like a business which you can explain through logic and reason. Philanthropy comes from the heart and it has to come from within.”