February 25, 2024
Ellen Marcus, daughter of the late Holocaust survivors Lottie and Howard Marcus, with Warren Buffett at a screening of the movie in Omaha. Courtesy of People for Ben-Gurion College.

“Who Are the Marcuses?” — a documentary that reveals the thriller behind a pair who made the largest-ever charitable donation to an establishment based mostly in Israel — was named the audience award winner for Best Feature at San Diego’s annual Blue Water Movie Pageant.

Held in June to coincide with World Oceans Day, the pageant promotes San Diego “as a hub for marine science, naval exploration, and an epicenter for environmental storytelling” and cultivates “a burgeoning family-based, environmental, and army group in San Diego and world wide,” in response to its web site.

Lottie and Howard Marcus
Lottie and Howard Marcus. Courtesy of People for Ben-Gurion College.

The award-winning documentary reconstructs the lives of Holocaust survivors Lottie and Howard Marcus, an unassuming couple from Nice Neck, N.Y., with a ardour for Ben-Gurion College of the Negev, the southern tutorial Israeli establishment whose innovation conjures up peace and local weather motion by means of water expertise.

The Marcuses retired to a modest two-bedroom condo in San Diego. Former dentist Howard handed away in 2014 at age 104, and Lottie died lower than two years later.

The movie concurrently traces the event of Israel’s very important water expertise from pre-state to the current; how the Marcuses’ $500 million reward in 2016 has ensured continued modern improvement in water science for not solely the Israeli folks, however the world as an entire; units the household’s reward in geopolitical context; and explores each its affect and implications for regional peace by means of expertise alternate.

“Who Are the Marcuses?” explores a lot of foundational questions surrounding the historic donation, together with: Who have been these nearly unknown philanthropists who had by no means publicly revealed their wealth or intentions? How did they accumulate hundreds of thousands by getting in on the early days of the best monetary providers empire ever constructed? What compelled them and their daughter Ellen Marcus to present all of it away? And why have been the Marcuses so captivated by the problem of water shortage and Ben-Gurion College?

“The Marcuses have been humble visionaries who noticed the significance of water analysis not solely as very important to Israel’s self-sufficiency however as a method to attain peace by means of shared pure sources. Their transformative generosity shall be felt for generations to come back,” stated Doug Seserman, Chief Govt Officer of People for Ben-Gurion College, which raises consciousness for the college throughout the U.S. by spotlighting the establishment’s analysis by means of academic packages and occasions in addition to different initiatives.

The Story Behind the Donation

How did the historic reward to BGU come to be? Among the many mates Lottie Marcus made by means of her Wall Avenue connections was Ben Graham, writer of The Clever Investor. She launched Graham to her husband. Graham beneficial to Howard that he lookup, and maybe go into enterprise, with one in all his mentees, the investor Warren Buffett.

Though the connection with Buffett resulted within the Marcus household buying a number of inventory in Buffett-related companies, they lived frugally and by no means with ostentation, in response to their daughter. They gave little thought to the worth of their inventory holdings, which they purchased and held till close to the top of their lives. Ellen Marcus stated that moderately than them leaving all of it to her, she requested them to depart her sufficient cash for her and her kids to stay comfortably, however to donate the remaining to some charitable endeavor.

On the suggestion of Ellen Barnett of Rancho Bernardo (herself a philanthropist who has a lake named for her on the Biblical Zoo in Jerusalem), Philip Gomperts, a regional director of People for Ben-Gurion College, approached the Marcuses, telling them in regards to the significance of water analysis.

Once they agreed to make a donation of inventory holdings, the quantity was value roughly $200 million. Nevertheless, the worth of the shares went up and up, in order that by the point the shares have been transferred to Ben-Gurion College, positioned in Be’er Sheva, Israel, the most important metropolis within the Negev Desert, their value was $500 million.

Historic Reward Comes Full Circle

Earlier this 12 months, the story behind the documentary got here full circle with the movie’s screening on the synagogue previously attended by Lottie and Howard Marcus, Temple Adat Shalom in Poway. On March 25, roughly 125 folks gathered at Adat Shalom to view the movie, adopted by a question-and-answer session with the synagogue’s Rabbi David Castiglione and Ellen Marcus.

“I used to be very moved to be a part of the screening at my dad and mom’ synagogue. It’s my ‘second synagogue,’ so it was fantastic to spend the night with Rabbi Castiglione and several other congregants whom I’ve identified for a few years,” Ellen Marcus stated.

She added, “Temple Adat Shalom was my dad and mom’ second residence, having turn out to be members early within the lifetime of the synagogue. They participated actively in synagogue occasions. They have been main donors to the synagogue, having donated the funds to buy a Torah scroll from the Holocaust period and the unique Temple emblem. They gave the lead reward to renovate the sanctuary in 2000 they usually left a bequest to create and keep a Holocaust Memorial Backyard behind the synagogue, which is offered for the whole San Diego group to go to and be taught from.”

“Who Are the Marcuses?” made its sold-out world premiere on the Newport Seashore Movie Pageant in October 2022 and went on to display screen on the United Nations local weather change convention COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. Its movie pageant journey across the nation is ongoing.

“This movie is the blueprint for present and future technological options to local weather crises that set the stage for lasting peace within the Center East and past,” stated one of many movie’s producers, Bradford Schlei.

Jacob Kamaras is editor and writer of San Diego Jewish World. Donald H. Harrison contributed reporting.