Member of the Association of Liechtenstein Charitable Foundations e.V.
The Dan David Foundation is a charitable organization established by the entrepreneur and philanthropist Dan David in the year 2000. Based in Liechtenstein, the Foundation supports research, higher education and breakthrough achievements in the sciences and humanities.
The Foundation’s signature initiative is the Dan David Prize, which annually awards three prizes of US$ 1 million each for achievements having an outstanding scientific, technological, cultural or social impact.
The Foundation supports additional projects, in Israel and other countries, in fields that reflect the varied personal interests of the founder.
These focus mainly on archaeological and historical research, anthropology and paleontology, environmental protection and education, as well as the preservation of Jewish heritage.
The Dan David Prize is an international award, established in 2001, endowed by the Dan David Foundation and headquartered at Tel Aviv University.
The Dan David Prize recognizes and encourages innovative and interdisciplinary research that cuts across traditional boundaries and paradigms. It aims to promote scientific, technological and humanistic achievements that advance and improve our lives and our knowledge of the world.
The Prize covers three time dimensions – Past, Present, and Future – that represent realms of human achievement.
The Past focuses on fields that expand knowledge of former times.
The Present recognizes achievements that shape and enrich society today. The Future rewards breakthroughs that hold great promise for improving our world.
Every year, the Prize’s Board chooses a field of focus relating to each time dimension. Following a review process of individuals nominated for the Prize, by independent committees comprised of renowned scholars and professionals, the Board chooses the laureates in each field.
Three prizes of US$ 1 million are granted annually in each time dimension. The prizes are awarded to individuals or institutions operating in the sciences, arts, humanities, or public service that have made – and continue to make – an outstanding contribution to humanity. Awards are given on the basis of merit, without discrimination of gender, race, religion, nationality, or political affiliation.
Previous laureates of the Prize include former US Vice President Al Gore, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, author Margaret Atwood, geneticist Craig Venter and artificial intelligence pioneer Marvin Minsky.
The Dan David Prize laureates donate 10 percent of their prize money to scholarships for postgraduate students in their respective fields, thereby contributing to the community and advancing a new generation of scholars.
While the Foundation’s signature initiative is the Dan David Prize, it supports additional projects, in Israel and other countries, especially in archaeological and historical research, anthropology and palaeontology, environmental protection and education, as well as the preservation of Jewish heritage. The Foundation accepts grant requests by invitation only.
In light of the pressing needs brought about by the Coronavirus pandemic, the Dan David Foundation has decided to step outside its usual funding remit and provide targeted emergency aid to medical institutions, with a focus on countries where the Foundation is particularly active. The Foundation has allocated USD 3 million to help fund hospitals and other organizations dealing with this unprecedented crisis. So far, recipients have included the Italian Red Cross as well as a number of hospitals in Israel, namely the Shamir Medical Center, Emek Medical Center, Reuth Rehabilitation Hospital and Ziv Medical Center. The funds have been used to purchase respirators, personal protective equipment and address other urgent medical needs which will assist these organizations in testing and treating Coronavirus patients.
The Italia Judaica project is a documentary history of the Jews in Italy by Shlomo Simonsohn, Professor of Jewish History at Tel Aviv University. Its purpose is to locate, identify and research documentary material pertaining to the history of the Jews in Italy and to publish the results systematically. Hitherto, 25 volumes have appeared and another 8 are awaiting publication.
The Etz Hayyim synagogue in Hania is the only surviving Jewish monument on Crete, following the destruction of the island’s community in 1944.
The building goes back to the Venetian period and became a synagogue in the 17th century. After the Holocaust, it remained abandoned and desecrated for half a century until it was painstakingly restored and re-dedicated in the late 1990s.
The Dan David Foundation is proud to support the continued maintenance of this monument that stands as witness to 2,300 years of Jewish life on Crete.
The Lod Music program offers a musical education to talented youths in the low-income and underdeveloped central Israeli town of Lod. Run jointly with the Lod Foundation, the program provides 30 three-year scholarships to local schoolchildren for musical training in jazz and light music.
The program includes five weekly hours of private instrumental lessons for each student, theory and ensemble sessions conducted by top teachers. The students receive professional training and continuous supervision, and perform at local events.
Teaching the next generation to respect nature is key to protecting the environment and securing humanity’s future. That is why the Dan David Foundation supports educational projects run by Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority that involve local communities, and especially children, in efforts to protect nature, landscape and heritage through field trips and hands-on experiences. The activities that the Foundation supports include:
First Steps is a competition for small and medium-sized businesses in Jerusalem that supports young entrepreneurs wishing to open or develop their venture in the Israeli capital. While Israel has a well-established pipeline for funding high-tech startups, entrepreneurs wishing to invest in more traditional ventures often struggle to secure initial capital, particularly if they are young and can offer few financial guarantees.
Run jointly with the Jerusalem Foundation and the Mati Jerusalem Business Center, the First Steps competition provides winners with a no-interest, no-guarantee loan as well as expert support in drawing up a business plan and launching a successful commercial enterprise.
The competition focuses on creative business ideas with positive social impact, which have the potential to create jobs in Jerusalem. The project is inspired by Dan David’s personal history, as he faced very similar challenges at the start of his business career, which he was able to jumpstart thanks to a no-guarantee loan by a fellow entrepreneur who believed in his dream.
The Dan David Foundation provides a number of grants supporting the humanities and social sciences at Tel Aviv University. These include:
Inaugurated in 1996, the Dan David building at Tel Aviv University was built to provide the university with additional classroom space as it faced a major increase in enrollments, following the mass immigration to Israel from the Soviet Union during the early 1990s. Today, the Dan David building continues to play a central role in campus life and is fondly remembered by university alumni from all faculties.
Opened in 2018, the Dan David Center for Human Evolution and Bio-History Research – part of the Natural History Museum at Tel Aviv University – hosts one of the most important anthropological collections in the world. It records the evolution of humans in the Middle East from 1.5 million years ago to the present, and holds artifacts not found anywhere else in the world, including the remains of the first modern humans out of Africa.
The Center aims to become a global focal point for research into human evolution by using advanced methods of scientific inquiry such as ancient DNA analysis and micro-CT scanning. It also hosts a cutting edge exhibition titled “What makes us human?” that tells the evolutionary story of our species to the broader public using innovative and interactive displays aimed at both children and adults.
The Dan David Foundation also sponsors multiple archaeological digs at prehistoric sites across Israel, such as the Misliya and Manot caves, which have been the sources of recent major discoveries illuminating the origin of our species’ first forays out of Africa.
The Dan David Foundation is a partner of the Israel Antiquities Authority in the creation of the IAA’s new campus in Jerusalem, mainly through the construction of the Dan David Archaeology Building. As part of the IAA’s new headquarters, this building will be a key venue for researching, storing and displaying newly unearthed archaeological finds from across Israel.
The Name Your Hero Competition for Israeli high school students is an essay contest linked to the Dan David Prize. Run in conjunction with the Dov Lautman Unit for Science Oriented Youth at Tel Aviv University, the project encourages high school students to make a difference and present their choice of candidate and/or suggestions for fields of focus for the Prize. The winning essays are rewarded with a small scholarship and are reviewed by the Dan David Prize Board to be taken into consideration when selecting the fields for the following year.
In July 1960, a young man who yearned for freedom was finally able to flee Communist Romania, along with his mother and grandmothers. They were allowed to board the train carrying them to the border with just one suitcase each and 10 US dollars.
Despite starting out with almost nothing, that young man embraced liberty and life in the Western world, treading a path that would make him into a successful international entrepreneur and philanthropist.
Born May 23, 1929, Dan David had already lived through many personal and historical tragedies. After surviving the Holocaust in his native Bucharest, he was active in Zionist youth movements, organizing trains and ships for the Aliya Beth, the clandestine immigration of Jews to what was then British-controlled Palestine. For his role he was persecuted and periodically arrested by the Communist regime, and years later his contribution would be recognized by the Israeli government, which honored him with the "Lochamei Hamedina" medal, awarded to those who fought for the establishment of the state.
Despite the challenges of his early years, Dan studied economics at university in Bucharest and became an accomplished photographer, producing award-winning shots for various newspapers and magazines. At 31, when he was finally allowed to leave Romania, Dan emigrated to Israel and initially continued his activity as a photographer. But in 1961, as he put it, he decided to "leave the art of photography for the business of photography." His dream was to introduce Israel and other countries to the concept of automatic instant photography – what today is commonly known as a "photobooth."
As a nearly-penniless refugee, Dan did not have the initial capital to invest in his idea. Fortunately, a businessman who believed in him came to the rescue, offering a partnership and a loan without guarantees that helped jumpstart the activity. Dan David went on to create and manage companies in Israel, Italy, Spain, Japan, the United States and elsewhere, operating thousands of automatic machines that today continue to offer a variety of services to the public.
The initial loan he received was a pivotal experience, teaching him the value of giving back and helping others achieve their dreams. It was in this spirit that he initiated his philanthropic projects, creating the Dan David Foundation in 2000 and the Dan David Prize in 2001. With the prize, his aim was to reward those who have made a lasting impact on society and to help young students become the scholars and leaders of the future.
Dan David repeatedly expressed his philosophy: “Money is not an end in itself, but a means to fulfil a vision. This is the reason why I chose to create the Prize, to devote some of my fortune to rewarding and furthering the work of the eminent figures who have increased our knowledge of our past, improved our present and helped us forge a better future.”
Dan David’s honors include "Commander of the Italian Republic in the Order of Merit" and "Commander of the French Republic in the Order of Arts and Letters." He received an Honorary Doctorate from Tel Aviv University and was a member of the Board of Governors of the university.
Dan passed away on September 6, 2011, in London, leaving his wife, Gabriela, and son Ariel. His philanthropic work and vision live on thanks to the work of the Dan David Foundation.