American Friends of Bar-Ilan University Advertorial Information



Two New Yorkers Chosen to Receive Presidential Award of Distinction from Bar-Ilan University in Israel

New York, NY – In conjunction with its milestone 60th anniversary, Bar-Ilan University (BIU) in Israel has established a new Presidential Award of Distinction. Among the inaugural group of recipients are two New Yorkers – Eli Hirmes, who resides in both Lawrence, NY and Bal Harbour, Florida; and Dr. Don Lebell, of New York, NY.

Ronnie Stern, BIU President Hershkowitz, Jane Stern LebellIn congratulating Eli and Don, Rabbi Prof. Daniel Hershkowitz, President of BIU, said, “I am delighted that the University is recognizing the impressive contributions of these individuals, who share a profound commitment to the mission of Bar-Ilan and have demonstrated inspirational communal leadership and generosity. In addition, they all appreciate the importance of higher education in shaping the Jewish future. They share with us an abiding love for Israel and the Zionist values upon which it was built.”

Eli Hirmes’ long-time support for Bar-Ilan University has been driven by the mutual core values he shares with the University – a love of Judaism and Zionism. Eli and his wife, Greta, have been exempla

ry supporters of BIU for many years - annually providing scholarships for students at The Ludwig and Erica Jesselson Institute of Advance Torah Studies, often called “The Machon.”  The Hirmes have sponsored a classroom in the Midrasha in memory of Greta's parents.  A long-time Board member of the American Friends of Bar- Ilan University, Eli has also played a pivotal role in securing major gifts for the University.  Among the other causes the Hirmes support are 

the HAFTR School, Yeshiva University, Congregation Beth Sholom in Lawrence, NY, and Emunah of America.  Eli is a past chairman of The Five Towns Jewish Council.  In his professional career, he was a successful CPA. 

Ronnie Stern, BIU President Hershkowitz, Jane Stern LebellA multifaceted humanist, Don Lebell’s early life was shaped by World War II. He served as a Naval Officer during the War. After earning his PhD in Systems Engineering from UCLA, Don went on to serve as USC’s University Research Coordinator and adjunct professor of Engineering and Management before launching his successful consulting firm.  Don is the author of three books, most recently, Weapons of Mass Survival.  He now provides pro-bono consulting for non-profits concerned with weapons proliferation, anti-Semitism, and education challenges. At Bar-Ilan University, Dr. Lebell advances doctoral scholarships and strategies for self-sustaining growth of science, medicine and the liberal arts.  He is married to Jane Stern Lebell, Honorary President of the American Friends of Bar-Ilan University (AFBIU).

All the recipients, including four other Americans, will be presented with the Award at the opening ceremony of BIU’s 60th Anniversary Mission and Board of Trustees Gala Dinner taking place on May 14th in Jerusalem.

To learn more about the Bar-Ilan projects being supported by the Presidential Award winners, call Howard Charish, Chief Development Officer of the American Friends of Bar-Ilan University, at 212-906-3900 or email


New President of the American Friends of Bar-Ilan University, Ronnie Stern, to continue his family’s leadership legacy

Ronnie Stern, BIU President Hershkowitz, Jane Stern Lebell

New York, NY - From the first time he stepped onto the Bar-Ilan University (BIU) campus almost 50 years ago as part of his Bar Mitzvah celebration in Israel, Ronnie Stern knew that Bar-Ilan and its American Friends would always play an important part of his life and that of his family.  When he was recently elected as the new President of the American Friends of Bar-Ilan University at its Board Meeting in New York, it was yet another seminal moment in the Stern Family’s multi-generational support and leadership of a University that is near and dear to its heart.

 Joining Ronnie as he accepted the Presidency of AFBIU was his mother, Jane Stern Lebell, who is an Honorary President of AFBIU. His maternal grandfather, Charles Wolfson, was among Bar-Ilan first major supporters – dedicating The Charles Wolfson Hall of Humanities. And his father, Jerome, has funded The Jerome L. Stern Family Graduate Studies Classroom Building.

“Growing up, when we had Bar-Ilan events at our house. I was always amazed how passionate my mother was about the University. She always spoke about it with a lot of emotion. It’s now my turn to get new people excited about Bar-Ilan, which is doing such great things in the sciences, law, business and the humanities – all with the underpinning of Jewish values that seek to improve the world,” said Stern, who resides in New York City.

His commitment to Bar-Ilan was further reinforced during the many years he worked with Danny Abraham to build Slim-Fast into one of the world’s leading diet food companies. “It was inspiring to see Danny provide the funding and the vision to create the only Business School in Israel based on the Harvard case method model at Bar-Ilan. Danny was convinced that Israel needed trained businessmen to strengthen their economy and compete on the world market. It wasn’t the first Business School in Israel… but it was designed to be the best,” said Stern.

Ronnie Stern

What impresses Stern the most about Bar-Ilan is its collaborative model, where many academic disciplines are brought together to advance research in the fields of science, social science, Jewish Studies, the arts and humanities. “A prime example of this is that the Nanotechnology Building has been built right in the midst of the Engineering Triplex and where the Chemistry faculty is housed. This makes it possible for scientists and engineers to easily work together on research that is combatting diseases,” he said.

“Putting things together within a Jewish context” is an approach that makes Bar-Ilan such a special university. It builds on the legacy of Jewish people throughout history, who have been so successful because they learn from the best around them, then collaborated together to break through all barriers to improve the world,” said Stern.

A member of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun in Manhattan and The Hampton Synagogue in Long Island, NY, Stern said he likes the way both synagogues stress the importance of religious tolerance – just as Bar-Ilan does. “It’s wonderful to walk on the Bar-Ilan campus, and see religious Jews and secular Jews coming together in an environment that is welcoming to Jews of all backgrounds. Different opinions can be freely expressed on a campus that respects everyone’s point of view,” said Stern.

He is also excited to speak with more people about Bar-Ilan’s Medical School in Safed, which in only three years has already strengthened healthcare in northern Israel. “When people contribute to the Medical School, they get more bang for the buck because instead of having to build a new costly teaching hospital, Bar-Ilan affiliated the new state of art school with six existing hospitals in the Galilee! It was a brilliant move that makes use of Israel’s and donors’ resources. These hospitals are immediately benefiting from the School’s outstanding doctors, scientific researchers, community outreach programs and interns,” said Stern.

As a marketing expert, who developed many over-the-counter (otc) brands at Thompson Medical Company and then President of Slim-Fast Foods, Stern said he is looking forward to working with the AFBIU staff to further strengthen the marketing initiatives of Bar-Ilan and its American Friends. “The more people who know about Bar-Ilan’s tremendous innovation in all fields, the more supporters we will gain. The University can only continue growing if we build upon what past generations of supporters have made possible.”

Speaking of the next generation, Ronnie said he and his wife, Ralou, are proud of the commitment of their sons Eric, Joshua, Jonathan, David and his wife, Haley, have shown to the Jewish community and to bettering the world at large.

When it comes to the Stern Family, they take the Jewish value of L’dor va’dor – from generation to generation – to heart. “I want Bar-Ilan to be stronger than ever as my grandson, Noah, grows up. Every generation must be there for Israel, which will only continue to prosper if its academic institutions such as Bar-Ilan thrive,” said Stern.

Learn how Bar-Ilan makes a meaningful impact in Israel and worldwide through our profiles of its students, alumni and donors.

American Friends of Bar-Ilan University increases awareness of, and support for the fastest growing institution of higher education in Israel. It is led by outstanding leaders on its Board of Overseers who share a common vision with the University to create an academic environment that embraces Judaism and Zionism. These principles are core to the University’s groundbreaking initiatives in the sciences, law, nanotechnology, engineering, business, the humanities and its Medical School in the Galilee.

For more information, please contact Alan Grossman, 212-906-3910