NET WORTH: $3.6 billion
SOURCE OF WEALTH: The Renco Group
JEWISH FUNDING AREAS: Israel Advocacy, Education
OVERVIEW: Ira Rennert is a strong backer of Jewish causes, particularly Israel. Some of his philanthropy to Israel is channeled through his ILR Ruth Foundation, which supports the sick and needy, as well as injured soldiers, schools and synagogues. In the U.S., Rennert supports Jewish education.
BACKGROUND: Ira Rennert received a B.S. from Brooklyn College and an MBA from NYU's Leonard N. Stern School of Business. He's a a former credit analyst who made his first fortune in junk bonds. He went on to found the The Renco Group, which he built into one of the nation's largest holding companies.
FUNDING PROFILE: Rennert is known for funding Orthodox Jewish causes and rubbing shoulders with Israeli government officials, most notably Benjamin Netanyahu. His wife, Ingeborg Hanna Rennert, founded the Women’s Institute for Torah, and is president of the American Friends of the Open University of Israel.
Rennert and his family direct money through the ILR Ruth Foundation, an under-the-radar vehicle with a minimal web presence. The vehicle does, however, accept unsolicited applications, at least according to the most recent tax year reported. ILR Ruth Foundation doesn't spread its money widely, and gives large sums to a few outfits annually. An outfit called Keren Ruth Bat Sarah Foundation has been a big winner, receiving more than $20 million. Overall, the mandate of ILR Ruth seems to support the sick, needy and injured soldiers, as well as schools and religious institutions.
Rennert has given generously to scholarship, religious study, and construction projects in Israel. He is reported to have given an undisclosed sum to Jewish settlers in Jerusalem’s Arab districts, working directly against the urgings of President Obama. He has established or funded educational centers in Israel at Yeshiva University and Bar Ilan University, and gave over 150 Torah scrolls to Israeli communities. He also helped pay for the restoration of Jerusalem’s Western Heritage Wall, and contributed $5 million to the creation and publication of a 20-volume encyclopedia of the Jewish commandments. He is listed as donor to Elem, an organization providing social services and vocational training to Israel’s at-risk youth. The Open University of Israel is also the site of the Ingeborg Rennert Library. Rennert was among a group of American donors who together gave some $25 million over five years to build Jewish homes in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City and the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of east Jerusalem.
Back in the U.S., Rennert is a member and honorary chairman of New York’s orthodox Fifth Avenue Synagogue. His giving history is heavily skewed toward academic chairs and endowments in a range of fields. He donated $5 million to launch the Wiesel Center at Boston University, named for his friend and Nobel Prize winning holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel. He endowed Chairs in Jewish studies at Barnard, Aging Research at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Business at Columbia, and Entrepreneurial Finance at NYU.
LOOKING FORWARD: Expect Rennert's strong support of Israel to continue. For a full look at this funder's philanthropy, read our Wall Street Profile of Ira Rennert.
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The ILR Ruth Foundation keeps a low profile, and does not provide clear guidelines for grantseekers. Applications, however, can be sent to this address:
c/o William Schwartz, Secy., 1 World Financial Ctr., New York, NY 10281; tel.: (212) 504-6399