When Charles and Lynn Schusterman established their family foundation in 1987, they imbued their giving with the same values that filled their home: a commitment to the paramount importance of repairing the world, of caring for the communities closest to their hearts and of providing all people with access to education.
They were led by a fierce determination to strengthen the Jewish people, the State of Israel and their hometown of Tulsa, OK. Investing in young people, the Schustermans believed, would pay the highest dividends over time.
Together Charles (z”l) and Lynn worked to fashion a philanthropic agenda dedicated to providing young people with the knowledge, self-confidence, experiences and resources they need to better their lives and, in turn, to apply their talents and skills as leaders in their communities, the Jewish world and beyond.
They drew their inspiration from Honi the Circlemaker, who said, “Just as my parents planted for me, so I will plant for my children.” These words define our guiding philosophy: working today to build a better tomorrow.
More than 20 years later, what started as a one-office foundation engaged almost exclusively in grantmaking is now a global network of programs, organizations and foundations that still hold true to the mission and values Charles and Lynn established with their initial investment.
Our story is the story of these values brought to life. It is the story of the incredibly talented, committed individuals and organizations that inspire us every day and with whom we work in partnership and on the ground to transform lives, touch hearts and strengthen communities. It is the story of an organization shaped by the vision of Day One and by the experiences of every day thereafter.
A Philanthropic Journey
This timeline shares just some of the major milestones we are proud to have achieved over the past two-plus decades.
1987 Charles and Lynn Schusterman formally establish their family foundation.
1988 CLSFF makes its first grant to the scholarship program at the local Jewish day school, Heritage Academy of Tulsa, later renamed the Mizel Jewish Community Day School.
1989 The Foundation makes its first significant grant allowing construction to commence on the Schusterman Campus of the Israel Arts and Science Academy in Jerusalem.
1990 As Communism collapsed, anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union gained force. CLSFF begins to provide significant support to Operation Exodus, a program to resettle Jews from the Soviet Union to communities in Israel.
1991 Charles and Lynn begin to support the Israel Museum, the world’s foremost center for collections of Judaica and Jewish Ethnography, leading to the Foundation’s increased focus on arts and culture in Israel.
1992 The Foundation makes its first grant to the Oklahoma School for Science and Mathematics (OSSM), establishing a relationship that leads to the construction of the Samson Science and Discovery Center at the statewide residential high school located in Oklahoma City.
1993 The Foundation establishes the Schusterman-Josey Chair in Judaic History at the University of Oklahoma.
1994 Charles and Lynn hire Sanford R. (Sandy) Cardin to serve as the Executive Director of their foundation.
1995 The Foundation provides its first sponsorship of Kids’ World, an international children’s festival hosted by the Tulsa Global Alliance. Kids’ World provides a hands-on learning environment for children to explore cultures from around the world.
1996 Charles and Lynn dedicate Succat Shalom: The Emergency Center in Jerusalem for At-Risk Children and Their Families, and commit to help build a similar facility for the Parent Child Center of Tulsa.
1997 Charles and Lynn agree to join PEJE (Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education), a Jewish funding collaborative comprised of donors seeking to create a vibrant, sustainable Jewish future by strengthening the Jewish day school movement.
1998 The cornerstone is laid in Jerusalem for Mercaz Shimshon (Samson Center), a new cultural facility and world headquarters for Reform and Progressive Judaism on the Jerusalem campus of the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion.
1999 The Foundation announces a major grant to the University of Oklahoma to help establish a new education and research campus in Tulsa, bringing all of the local OU programs to one location.
2000 Charles Schusterman dies on December 30 and Lynn becomes Chair of the Foundation.
2002 In partnership with Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, the foundation launches the Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC) to address the worrisome rise in anti-Israel activities on college campuses across North America.
2003 In an effort to replicate in Israel an interdisciplinary approach to the treatment of child abuse pioneered at the Child Abuse Network (CAN) in Tulsa, the Foundation establishes the Beit Lynn program in Jerusalem.
2004 The Foundation makes its first grant to Beit Morasha for a pluralistic training program that fosters respect and understanding of Jewish religious diversity.
2005 The Foundation launches the Youth in Philanthropy Program to educate Tulsa area teens about the complementary roles service and philanthropy play in a caring community.
2006 The Schusterman family establishes the Schusterman Foundation-Israel (SFI) and the Center for Leadership Initiatives, Inc. (CLI). ROI, a global network of young Jewish innovators, is created as a venture of CLI and in partnership with Taglit-Birthright Israel.
2007 Responding to the dearth of Israel Studies programs and scholars on U.S. campuses, the Foundation establishes the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies at Brandeis University.
2008 The Foundation is among a coalition of funders to support the launch of Birthright Israel NEXT as a way to engage returning Birthright participants and their peers, expand their connections to Israel and deepen their commitments to Jewish life.
2009 The Foundation joins with three foundations to form Repair the World, a nonprofit building the field of Jewish service learning. The Foundation steers the merger of BBYO and the PANIM Institute, bringing PANIM’s service learning to BBYO’s 30,000-strong teen network.
2010 The Foundation releases a study showing a 70% increase in the number of courses devoted to Israel on U.S. campuses since 2006. The Foundation initiates a public survey and inclusion campaign to make the Jewish community more welcoming to LGBT Jews.
2011 The Foundation launches a network agenda to help hubs and pockets of Jewish life around the world grow and connect to each other.
2012 REALITY becomes an independent organization, expanding its focus on empowering exceptional young people to realize their leadership potential. The Foundation, the Schusterman Foundation-Israel, ROI Community and REALITY begin to take a more integrated approach to their work, operating under the name Charles and Lynn Schusterman Philanthropic Network (CLSPN).