The first time George Elbaum spoke publicly about surviving the Holocaust was on Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2010, some 65 years after the defeat of Nazi Germany. He had kept an emotional distance from those memories until watching Paper Clips, a documentary film on how students in a small rural Tennessee school responded to lessons about the Holocaust. “The camera panned the audience and many of the students and teachers were crying,” he says. “For the first time in my life it occurred to me that my story has value.”
Since that epiphany, he has penned two books, Neither Yesterdays Nor Tomorrows and Yesterdays Revisited, and given more than 200 presentations to teenagers at schools and organizations across the U.S. and in Poland, stressing the need to confront bigotry and to uphold the dictum “Never Again.”
As a child, Dr. Elbaum was smuggled out of the Warsaw Ghetto and lived with Polish families who hid his Jewish identity from the Nazis. So it comes as little surprise that his commitment to educate future generations is his number-one priority. Because he was trained as an aeronautical and nuclear engineer, the Technion is a close second.
Dr. Elbaum has been instrumental in the success of the American Technion Society in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is a Technion Guardian, a designation reserved for those whose support reaches the highest level, and he has supported numerous graduate fellowships and other Technion projects. When asked to take on the co-chair position of the national ATS Planned Giving Committee, he thought, “If I’m going to talk with potential ATS donors about the benefits of planned giving, I want to lead by example.”
In March 2018, he made a substantial bequest commitment through the Whiteman International Foundation, named after his mother, which currently funds graduate fellowships in the Grand Technion Energy Program. The bequest comes with a provision for releasing its funds at any time, should he decide to do so. “In the U.S., everything is three times more expensive. So every dollar given to the Technion goes a lot further in education and research than it does at an American university.”
Supporting Israel and the Technion comes naturally to Dr. Elbaum. “I always wore a parachute when I was hang gliding,” says the San Francisco resident about his more adventurous days. “I hoped to never use it, but was glad it was there,” he adds, likening Israel to a safe haven for Jews. “Israel is the parachute of the world’s Jews, and Israel’s economic and military security rests more on the shoulders of the Technion than on any other single institution in Israel.”
Dr. Elbaum immigrated to the U.S. in 1949 and earned his four degrees, including a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering, from MIT. He has been married to Mimi Jensen for 45 years, a commitment that trumps even his philanthropy. “She’s my number-one passion.”
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