Billionaire financier David Rubenstein has pledged $15 million to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum after being motivated to donate by the conflict in Ukraine amid rising antisemitism worldwide, he told the Washington Post.
The atrocities committed by Russian forces proves that the history of the Holocaust should still be taught, Rubenstein said, adding he feels that he has a “moral obligation” to help because his ancestors were from Ukraine and he is Jewish.
The gift will help fund digitizing the museum’s collection—which includes tens of thousands of objects, oral testimonies, historic footage, archival documents and photographs—to make the material more accessible (and real) to scholars and students all over the world, the museum’s director, Sara Bloomfield, told the Post, as well as help the museum boost its own research, educational programs and public exhibitions.
Rubenstein’s donation helped the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum reach its goal of raising $1 billion a year earlier than its target date of 2023, which will mark three decades since the museum opened.
Rubenstein was persuaded to make the donation by several close associates who serve on the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council—the equivalent of the museum’s board of trustees—including diplomat Stuart E. Eizenstat, for whom Rubenstein worked in the 1970s, and Rubenstein’s longtime business partner and Carlyle Group managing director Allan M. Holt, according to the Post.
Rubenstein said he was happy to make the donation because it ties in with history and documentation, which he said is important to him, adding that he may have “made a mistake” in not donating to the museum earlier.
“If you look at the Holocaust and what happened, people say, ‘Why didn’t the U.S. do more? Why didn’t we intervene?’” Rubenstein told the Post. “We are living in a similar moment. . . . Antisemitism is on the rise in the world. People are saying, ‘What can we do?’ There are many things you can do, and reminding people of the Holocaust is one.”
Reported antisemitic events in the U.S. jumped by about one third last year, according to a report released the Anti-Defamation League last week. The ADL recorded 2,717 antisemitic incidents nationwide, which the group said was the highest number since the organization began tracking incidents in 1979.
Rubenstein is a cofounder of the Carlyle Group, which has $260 billion in assets under management, and Rubenstein is worth $3.8 billion alone, according to a Forbes estimate. He’s known for making large philanthropic contributions, particularly in the arts. Last year, the 72-year-old donated $10 million to the Lincoln Center to help expand the number of free performances and continue coronavirus programming, like classes for U.S. citizenship and blood drives. Rubenstein also serves as the chairman of boards for the National Gallery of Art and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Rubenstein owns an impressive collection of historical documents, including a 1297 copy of the Magna Carta, that he lends out to museums across the U.S. He’s spent more than $100 million supporting American historical sites, preservation and national monuments, which he calls “patriotic philanthropy,” according to the Post.
David Rubenstein gives $15 million to Holocaust Museum (Washington Post)
The Man Who Owns A Magna Carta (Forbes)