With the Azrieli Foundation’s recent donation of NIS 40 million, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) is now home to the newly-named Azrieli National Centre for Autism and Neurodevelopment Research, a leading international centre for innovation in translational research, diagnosis and interventions in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and other neurodevelopmental conditions.
This new centre builds on the legacy of the National Autism Center of Israel established in 2018 with funding awarded to BGU by the Israeli Ministry of Science and Technology. They focus on developing shared resources such as the National Autism Database and Biobank, enabling collaboration with other ASD research and clinical centres in Israel. Researchers and clinical faculty leverage their complementary expertise to develop a highly innovative and integrated model of research and clinical care at Soroka University Medical Center (SUMC). They build partnerships across the entire Israeli research community, with health care and child care providers, families, government and industry.
The Azrieli Foundation’s donation will enable the centre to build on existing initiatives and grow in new areas. One such initiative will allocate start-up funds to promote collaborative research projects between researchers from accredited Israeli universities and medical centres, who will be selected by a national inter-university committee. By prioritizing high-risk, high-impact projects, the centre has the potential to catalyze transformative results. Researchers from across Israel will be invited to use the centre’s data and infrastructure to accelerate and elevate their work leading to national and international collaborations and new discoveries.
The centre’s ability to conduct groundbreaking research depends on recruiting outstanding PhD and post-doctoral students, and Azrieli Foundation funding will allow the establishment of training fellowships to attract the best and brightest students. Learn more about postgraduate research training opportunities, and visit the Science Abroad website for more information about opportunities for faculty members.
The core faculty is a growing and extremely impactful team, with broad disciplinary range and academic affiliations. Read more about the team.
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From our most vulnerable to our most exceptional, we all have a contribution to make. For potential to flourish, however, it needs opportunity, guidance, an empathetic hand and a courageous heart.
The Azrieli Foundation is Canada’s largest non-corporate foundation. We connect and nurture potential, wherever it exists, with the resources and the wisdom it needs to open the doors to a better world, one individual at a time.
These are some of the stories of how the Azrieli Foundation and the people and organizations we support are making an impact in the world.
Read the Azrieli Foundation’s 2021 Impact Report
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Azrieli Fellows are generating new knowledge in all fields of study, for the advancement of humanity in Israel and around the world.
In June, the Azrieli Foundation launched Aperio, a new digital and print publication which showcases the work of these outstanding early career faculty, postdoctoral researchers, PhD candidates and graduate students.
Aperio highlights some of the outstanding work of Azrieli Fellows. From a metabolic engineer to a cybersecurity expert to a quantum physicist, they all have one thing in common: their cutting-edge research has been supported by the Azrieli Foundation.
Read about these leading international scientists and scholars in the formative stages of their careers and be inspired by the magnitude of their curiosity, their desire to make new discoveries, and their drive for excellence and impact.
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When assessing program and project grant requests, the Azrieli Foundation carefully considers what size contribution will make a meaningful and sustainable impact.
This practice is called “right-sizing” a grant. While the Foundation is often recognized for its largest investments, sometimes even a small contribution to the right organization, at the right time, can make all the difference.
Over the past three years, the Foundation has made a $4,000 annual grant to Concerts Lachine. This contribution helped launch the Lachine International Vocal Academy (LIVA), an intensive summer training program for emerging vocal talent. While the contribution overall seems small, it was exactly what Concerts Lachine needed to close its funding gap and open the Academy.
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The human olfactory system plays a key role not only in smell, but also in our most basic social interactions, emotions and recollections.
The Azrieli Foundation has supported the extraordinary work of Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science for many years. With a shared vision to enable scientific research for the benefit of humanity, the Foundation has made significant donations to ground-breaking neurodevelopmental research, systems biology and generous fellowships.
Most recently, the Azrieli Foundation established the Azrieli National Institute for Human Brain Imaging and Research at Weizmann. With a gift of $15 million, Weizmann was able to purchase a 7 Tesla (7T) Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machine and develop a country-wide research hub that provides unique opportunities and clinical collaborations focused on the human brain. At 7T, the MRI has the highest power currently in use with human subjects and is the only such machine in the Middle East.
One of the key challenges to fully understanding how the human brain works is its exceptionally complex connectivity. To probe this connectivity, scientists need to measure activity from the entire brain simultaneously, and functional brain imaging is the best, and nearly only, way to do this.
An MRI can provide scientists and clinicians with information that is impossible to get any other way. It can record the brain both when at rest and when actively performing a sensory or cognitive task. Most brain imaging is done with MRIs with lower field strength (1.5T or 3T). The higher the magnetic field, the better the resolution of images, and the faster they can be obtained, which means that more information can be extracted from images.
The Director of the Azrieli National Institute for Human Brain Imaging and Research is Prof. Noam Sobel. His fascinating area of research explores how the brain processes smell, which is called olfaction.
The human olfactory system plays a key role not only in smell, but also in our most basic social interactions, emotions and recollections. Faulty functioning of this system may indicate early signs of neurological and cognitive deteriorations, for example, in Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
Prof. Sobel has pioneered the development and construction of tools that emit and measure smells, and led the way in the use of brain imaging to measure the human brain’s response to odors. His earlier efforts include explaining how the brain uses two nostrils to form an olfactory image and developing technology that enables severely disabled people to communicate and steer a wheelchair by simply sniffing. More recent examples include using olfactory responses to predict who will recover from coma and brain injury, and a numerical way to represent odors – “a measure of smell” – that may one day make it possible to transmit smell over the internet. The Sobel group has also been very involved in the response to COVID-19, developing an online olfactory self-test known as SmellTracker that allows for rapid self-diagnosis at home.
One of the key challenges to fully understanding how the human brain works is its exceptionally complex connectivity.
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“1 in 3 Canadians are directly impacted by disorders of the brain… It’s a very basic question: What are we going to do about it?”
– Naomi Azrieli
The following is an excerpt from a speech given by Naomi Azrieli celebrating Brain Canada’s 20th anniversary:
Brain Canada’s mission is to understand the brain in health
and in disease.
This simple statement is in fact a major challenge, but one which Brain Canada has embraced.
Surprisingly, despite the intensity and growth in any number
of fields of discovery in the 21st century, brain research is still
in its infancy.
With so much unknown, brain research today is where cancer and heart disease research were in the early 20th century.
Yet, it is also true that we know much more now than we did
20 years ago when Brain Canada was founded. We have learned more about the
brain in the last 5 years than we have in the previous 5000.
We are at a critical point in scientific history, poised to
make major discoveries on the brain which will improve human lives and society.
Brain Canada is the key enabler and supporter of that progress.
It has catalyzed new research, convened a nation-wide community of scientists, clinicians and stakeholders and leveraged federal funding. Through its network of partners, sponsors and donors, Brain Canada has more than doubled the investment from Health Canada, amplifying its impact and injecting close to $250 million into Canadian brain research.
Brilliant young brain researchers in Canada are without a doubt the best source of innovation and creativity, and yet, they face enormous hurdles as they launch their careers, including finding
funding for the great ideas as they work to prove themselves.
Brain Canada is tackling this issue by launching the Future Leaders in Brain Research Program, which will invest $15 million in early-career scientists. The funding will build the capacity of newly-established researchers, helping to increase the strength and expertise that will lead to further discoveries, treatments and cures.
“The Early-Career Capacity Building Grant will enable my lab to think outside the box… and provides the perfect complement to our research that is funded through more conventional funding.”
– Matthew Parsons, PhD Researcher, Memorial University of Newfoundland
Supporting International Music Competitions in Canada
The Azrieli Foundation is committed to supporting music and has a particular interest in emerging artist development and career development, especially within classical music.
Discovering promising pianists
In 1991, Calgary philanthropist Esther Honens established the Honens International Piano Competition with the dream of discovering and launching the careers of the world’s most promising new pianists, who demonstrate themselves to be a “Complete Artist.”
The competition has become a cultural calling card for Canada on the international stage, recognized for its artistic excellence, innovation and integrity.
Beyond the triennial competition, which awards one of the world’s largest cash prizes alongside the comprehensive Artist Development Program, Honens has grown to offer an annual music festival, an amateur pianist competition, as well as learning and community outreach programs nationwide.
The Azrieli Foundation is supporting the international recital series. The laureate’s prize includes recitals in Berlin (Konzerthaus), London (Wigmore Hall), New York City (Carnegie Hall), and Toronto as well as a personalized package of a residency, commercial audio recording, mentorship and representation over three years. The Honens debut recitals are pivotal moments in the laureate’s career development. They offer rare opportunities for an emerging pianist to be heard by some of the top international agents, to engage with teams in the foremost concert houses of the world, and to be reviewed in important international publications.
The Banff International String Quartet Competition (BISQC)
“This will be our response to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.”
– Leonard Bernstein
Over the last 35 years, BISQC has become a leader among international chamber music competitions. Its laureate list reads as a “who’s who” of the best early and mid-career string quartets on the global stage.
Launched in 1983 to mark the 50th anniversary of the Banff Centre, this music competition and festival celebrates some of the world’s best new musical talent while providing vital career support, all in front of avid music audiences.
Every three years, ten of the world’s best emerging string quartets are invited to Banff to compete for cash prizes and a career development plan worth over $500,000. The platform helps launch world-class careers for these very talented musicians who perform during the competition and benefit from its activities, including the international TV and radio broadcast of the competition itself.
The competition laureates receive
a robust 3-year career development package, including a 50-75 date concert
tour, a recording residency, coaching and mentorship, the commissioning of new
works, and other personalized professional development opportunities.
Laureates leverage the
Competition to launch sustainable professional careers, with 80% of them under
professional management and maintaining active schedules performing, recording
More recently, under the artistic direction of past laureate Barry Shiffman, BISQC has grown to take on more of a festival atmosphere in Banff, with the addition of a parallel Young Artists Program, a Quartet in the Community Series, and off-year nine-concert BISQC laureates festival, featuring past laureates.
BISQC is recognized as a leading and dynamic international music competition poised for an important future that will enrich the classical music field for generations to come.
Concours Musical International De Montreal
Concours Musical International De Montreal (CMIM) was founded in 2002 by the late André Bourbeau and the late Joseph Rouleau. They wanted to raise awareness of classical music through the discovery of young talent in an international competition. They also wanted to support those young musicians from around the world who want to pursue an international performing career.
The CMIM rotates their prizes through violin, piano and voice. The first year, the voice winner was Measha Brueggergosman. In May 2019, the winner was the phenomenal violinist Hao Zhou. Listen to him perform here:
Part of the prize package includes the prestigious Joseph Rouleau Career Development Prize, which provides the winning musician with support for concert engagements and networking, securing management, producing and distributing promotional material, and working on public relations.
“The Joseph Rouleau Career Development Award opened up several amazing opportunities for me. I recorded a solo album in Domaine Forget’s beautiful and inspiring concert hall. This album was produced by Martha de Francisco, one of today’s greatest music producers!”
– Zoltan Fejervari, 2017 CMIM Laureate
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Educating students who may have otherwise been overlooked or misunderstood
The Azrieli Foundation is committed to supporting initiatives that improve the quality of life and education for children with learning and developmental disabilities. These are three organizations that enable children to achieve their full potential.
As different as each of these organizations is,
they all share similar objectives of developing individualized learning
delivered by highly trained and certified teachers, integrating their programs
with public school curricula, and creating environments that nurture the
strengths of every child.
Even though we’re all different, we all fit together
Even before stepping inside the old stone Tudor that is home to The Dunblaine School you know it’s a special place. Above the doorway is a brightly painted mural – the handiwork of the school’s students – and visitors, teachers, students, and families are welcomed with the message, “Even though we’re all different, we all fit together.” The spirit of welcoming and inclusion continues inside, infusing every element of the school.
The Dunblaine School has offered educational services for children with learning disabilities since 1969. Their specialized approach and methodology builds self-esteem and self-confidence, and promotes meta-cognition and self-advocacy. Dunblaine has been “…educating students who may have otherwise been overlooked or misunderstood while striving to reach their true potential,” says the school’s principal, Charleen Pryke.
The nurturing environment that has been created at
The Dunblaine School seems the ideal setting for teachers and children alike to
engage in the school’s mission, as described by Ms. Pryke, to “…recognize each
individual child’s strengths, acknowledge their challenges and develop a
specialized approach and methodology that promotes life-long success.”
Looking beyond disability
Inspiring stories often arise from a random situation that inspires ordinary people to achieve extraordinary things. The story of the Donald Berman Yaldei Development Center is no exception. It begins with the unexpected diagnosis received by a young couple from Boisbriand, Quebec that their two children were both profoundly developmentally delayed.
Confronted by the lack of resources and support, the couple soon resolved to create a facility for their children, as well as for other families in the same situation. When the Center – which was named after philanthropist Donald Berman, a Montreal businessman who supported many causes for children – was created in 1997, three staff members would provide intensive treatment to three children in a small private home. Today, the humble facility, located in the heart of Montreal, has become a treatment centre that offers a wide range of clinical, educational and recreational programs and services.
Although autistic children can receive care from the city’s public services for intensive therapy, children with other developmental disabilities do not have the same access to appropriate care. By offering intensive, individualized treatments that are integrated and adapted to the specific needs of every child, Yaldei manages to close the gap. The Center works with more than 25 schools and annually helps more than 276 children to reach their full potential.
Yaldei (which means “the children of” in Hebrew) is a unique centre. It offers early intervention programs as well as a development centre and a specialized school accredited by the Quebec government. Children benefit from treatment follow-up during their studies, as well as programs and services that focus both on their behaviour and their educational goals. Yaldei has a solid reputation for its skilled staff of experts and innovative expertise, in particular through its holistic approach. Yaldei gives the children the opportunity to learn how to walk, speak and play, to attend school and to live productive lives within their community, while improving the quality of their family life.
A new chapter begins
In 2016, Yaldei took on the challenge of
renovations, in order to meet the needs of its clients in a modern and
appropriate environment. The Azrieli Foundation is helping Yaldei implement
three innovative projects: the creation of an industrial kitchen that will
enable young adults from the Center to develop professional and social skills;
upgrading its facilities so parents can watch their children’s sessions and
learn the therapeutic techniques to practice at home and, finally, the purchase
of new equipment, including a climbing wall and trampolines for physiotherapy
Over the last 22 years, the Donald Berman Yaldei
Development Center has enabled many children with developmental disabilities to
beat the odds and reach their full potential. This history is far from being
over, and the new Center shows the commitment of a whole community to change
the lives of these children and their families.
Putting research into action
Studies have shown that between 5 and 15 per cent of school-aged children around the world have a learning disability or attention disorder, with the most common one being ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). This number is rising globally, but there are organizations working to make educational programs effective for all children regardless of their abilities. Israel is on the cutting edge of this movement.
LDADs impair academic functioning and increase the
risk of developing emotional problems, such as stress, anxiety, and depression;
social challenges like social exclusion, bullying, behavioural problems and
loneliness; and difficulties in feeling a sense of belonging in school.
“Achieving excellence in the 21st century requires that every student is ready to learn, and every teacher is ready to teach.”
– Dr. Daphne Kopelman-Rubin
The “I Can Succeed” (ICS) program goes into schools and trains homeroom teachers to deliver their lessons effectively to students with and without learning disabilities. This takes the onus off the individual schools to have an in-house specialist. The nationwide program is used in more than 60 schools and 50 preschools in Israel. The program, which is enacted by teachers, includes a flexible curriculum based on the development stage of the individual student.
The ground-breaking institute is comprised of four
Implementing the ICS intervention program within schools. This program trains homeroom teachers to better understand learning disabilities and become the student’s mentor.
Conducting evidence-based diagnosis, individual and family treatment in collaboration with the school.
Investigating the impact of emotional, social, and family relationships. This involves ongoing research in the field of learning disabilities and attention disorders.
Training professionals such as psychologists, educators, community coordinators and doctors.
Through innovative programming like the ICS program, IDC Herzliya is leading the way in Israel for children with learning disabilities and attention disorders, ensuring that they achieve their full academic potential.
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“To be an architect and a builder, you have to be a dreamer… but a dreamer who dreams with his eyes open.”
– David J. Azrieli
In 1993, Tel Aviv University opened the doors of the Azrieli School of Architecture, welcoming 60 students. Today, there are 500 students working at 3 levels: Undergraduate, Master’s and Doctorate.
The school is considered among
the world’s leading architecture schools, as demonstrated by the quality of
faculty and students, the achievements of its graduates and the partnerships it
cultivates with schools such as MIT, ETH, Bartlett, Carleton and McGill.
A world-class school deserves a world-class home that is inspiring, attuned to the needs of its students and faculty, respectful of the environment and in sync with the quality and standards that are expected of its graduates.
The new state-of-the-art space, which is scheduled to be completed in 2021, will extend over 5,000 square metres and be located at the front edge of the campus on Antin Square. For the first time in the history of TAU, one of its faculty buildings will prominently face a public street, and will include a gallery for the School of Architecture.
In the words of Danna Azrieli, Chair of the Azrieli Group and the Azrieli Foundation in Israel, “We have known since the school opened that these students needed a purpose-built facility. In fact, we still have my father’s early architectural designs of the space he imagined. We’re thrilled with what this building will offer as well as the prominent location on campus, which sends a message about the importance of training tomorrow’s architects. We are proud of what this school has become.”
A competition was launched in
Spring 2019 asking architects to submit designs for the new building.
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Sharing Jewish traditions, cultures and values through books
Reading to children is vitally important: study after study has shown its impact on a child’s development. Even the mere presence of books in a home increases the level of education they can reach.
But finding the right books and making the time to read as a family can be hard. That’s where PJ Library comes in.
A program of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, PJ Library sends free Jewish children’s books to families across the world every month. Over 15,000 books a month are sent to PJ Library families in Canada.
Something magical happens when parents sit down together to read with their children.
Something magical happens when parents sit down together to read with their children. PJ Library shares Jewish stories that can help families talk together about values and traditions that are important.
Families with kids ages 6 months through 8 years old with Judaism as part of their lives are welcome to sign up. PJ Library encourages all Jewish families to participate, whatever their background, knowledge, or family make-up, or observance may be.
PJ Our Way
happens after children in the PJ Library program turn 8?
PJ Our Way is for kids aged 9 to 11. It is kid-driven: they choose their own books, creating a totally tailored experience based their own interests and reading level. To make the choice easier, the PJ website includes summaries and author bios, along with ratings, reviews, and video trailers created by members themselves. Kids can also take polls and quizzes, participate in monthly interviews and challenges, post their own reviews, and comment on blog posts.
The PJ Our Way site is a completely safe and moderated space, perfect for acclimating older kids to using the web independently. It even has a blog for parents, where they can read about the books on offer for their child, and find family discussion questions for each book. Parents can also find out what values or topics are covered, as well as any content advisories parents or children should know about before choosing a book.
Funds for Fun for First-Time Campers
Azrieli/PJ Library Campership Incentive Grants are encouraging more families to
send their children to Jewish overnight camp for the first time. The program
offers grants to offset camp registration costs for PJ Library participants
living in cities without first-time camper programs.
Harold Grinspoon, founder of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation and the PJ Library, says, “We believe that the 24/7 camp environment provides a natural extension of the PJ experience, giving young people the opportunity to develop lasting friendships, explore Judaism, and try new things in a safe, nurturing community.”
2018 Azrieli/PJ Library Campership participant enthusiastically said, “I had a
very good time at camp and I especially enjoyed going on the go karts. The daily
learning was amazing and especially the extra learning on Shabbat. I’m excited
to go back next year and have another great summer.”
Azrieli/PJ Library Campership Program is proud to help a new generation of
families send their children to Jewish overnight camp.
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The Azrieli Foundation is strictly apolitical. As a registered charity, the Azrieli Foundation does not engage in or fund any partisan political activities.
Charitable Registration Number: 892425166RR0001
The Azrieli Foundation is strictly apolitical. As a registered charity, the Azrieli Foundation does not engage in or fund any partisan political activities.