Technions San Francisco chapter raises $7.2 million

The Northern California Chapter of the American Technion Society raised $7.2 million over the past two years for the Israel Institute of Technology.

In so doing, the chapter surpassed its 1993-95 fund-raising goal by more than 200 percent.

Regional director Jack Kadesh said supporters gave more than half that amount during the past year.

"On Sept. 30, 1995 — the end of our fiscal year — we had raised $4.5 million."

This year promises to be as lucrative, Kadesh asserted. "Our goal is $2.1 million, and we already have $1.8 million. We'll reach well over $3 million" in 1996, he said.

The national organization recently received the top award for excellence in fund-raising at the National Society of Fund Raising Executives' 33rd conference, which was held in Los Angeles.

Kadesh attributed much of the chapter's success to its 30-member board of directors, all volunteers.

"The way this is happening is by developing a very strong board of laypeople working very hard to bring new people to us," he said. "They cultivate new prospects."

Some of those prospects include Technion alumni now working in the Bay Area's high-tech industry.

"We've discovered quite a number of graduates of Technion down in Silicon Valley," said chapter president Sidney Konigsberg. "We're getting to know them, and realize they might want to contribute to their alma mater."

Several hundred Technion grads live in the Bay Area, and up to 100 attend monthly meetings conducted in Hebrew by assistant director Lili Naveh.

"We believe that the future of Israel's economy is based on high-technology people," said Kadesh, a former S.F. furniture wholesaler.

The Haifa-based institute produces 75 percent of Israel's scientists and engineers, and 90 percent of its aircraft industry employees, he said.

But Israeli students' brain power comprises the country's true natural resources, he said.

"Technion is so recognized as an educational institution that many major companies have established facilities in Israel…to utilize the brain power of Technion," Konigsberg added.

Among them: Hewlett-Packard, Intel and Microsoft, he said.

Konigsberg and his wife have established the Career Development Chair, a $25,000 gift to provide moving expenses for potential professors, or to set up research labs.

"We're shopping the world market for high-quality professionals…and we have to pay world-class fees," said Konigsberg, who once owned two South San Francisco electronics manufacturing firms.

That requires cash. ATS is "a major gift organization," Konigsberg said, in which "twenty-five thousand dollars is a basic commitment" that lets a donor go to Israel to see the institute.

Sixteen Bay Area donors have made the commitment and will journey to the Technion in May.

However, Kadesh added, "We have quite a few members who give $50 to $100 a year."

One such woman in her 80s called his office, "bawling out my assistant," he said. The caller was upset because "she gave $50 every year, and she never heard from us. I sent her a thank-you note. I called her. The next thing I knew, she set up a $32,000 scholarship and donated over $100,000.

"You never know what comes from $50."