NET WORTH: $3.8 billion
SOURCE OF WEALTH: Home Depot
JEWISH FUNDING AREAS: Israel Advocacy & Policy, Community, Education & Youth, Religious
OVERVIEW: Bernard Marcus has given away more than $1 billion through his Marcus Foundation. Despite major money moving through the door annually, the billionaire's charity doesn't even have a website, making it tough to ascertain exactly what it looks for in potential Jewish grantees. Israel is a top priority, however, and Marcus helped cofound the Israel Democracy Institute in 1991. Marcus also backs Jewish camps, various community organizations, and is a strong funder of FIDF and Birthright Israel. The foundation does not accept unsolicited proposals.
BACKGROUND: Bernard Marcus graduated from Rutgers University, where he studied to be pharmacist. After graduation, he moved from pharmacy to retail and helped run stores. In 1978, he and his co-worker Arthur Blank got fired from California hardware store Handy Dan and soon opened a rival retailer, The Home Depot.
ISRAEL ADVOCACY & POLICY: In 1991, Bernard Marcus, with the assistance of Israeli leaders and former Secretary of State George Shultz, helped cofound Israel Democracy Institute, an "independent, nonpartisan 'think and do tank' dedicated to strengthening the foundations of Israeli democracy." As Marcus Foundation Executive Director Jay Kaiman explains, Marcus "got concerned years ago not only about the external threats to Israel, but about the internal threats." The Marcus Foundation has given tens of millions to Israel Democracy Institute through the years. Another think tank this foundation supports is the Jewish Institute For National Security Affairs. The foundation has also given strong support to Friends of Yemin Orde, a human services outfit, and millions to Birthright Israel and Friends of Israel Defense Forces. As well, the foundation recently gave a $25 million gift to American Friends of Magen David Adom, to build a new blood center called the Marcus National Blood Services Center.
COMMUNITY: Marcus is based in the Atlanta area and some of his philanthropy reflects this. He's a strong backer of the local Jewish community in the region, and his foundation has given tens of millions to Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta. The region is also home to the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta. Other grantees have included Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County, Atlanta Jewish Film Society, Atlanta Jewish Music Festival, William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum, and Jewish Family & Career Services.
EDUCATION & YOUTH: Marcus is a strong backer of Jewish camps. The foundation has supported Foundation for Jewish Camp and also funds scholarships for Jewish camps. Camp Ramah Darom, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, is home to the Marcus Center. Marcus has also funded education outfits like Hillel: Foundation for Campus Jewish Life, Israel Education Resource Center, Israel on Campus Coalition, Yeshiva Elementary School, and The Epstein School.
RELIGIOUS: Marcus has given strong support to Union for Reform Judaism, as well as supported The Temple in Atlanta, among others.
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The Marcus Foundation does not provide a clear avenue of contact but below is an address:
The Marcus Foundation, Inc.
1266 W. Paces Ferry Rd., No. 615
Atlanta, GA United States 30327
Contact: Jay Kaiman, Exec. Dir.