19th century fund aids 21st century education

August 21, 2014 by J-Wire Staff
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The Maurice Alexander Scholarship Fund has donated almost $23,000 to the Fund for Jewish Higher Education.


David Lesnie ‘Maurice Alexander Scholarship Fund’  [rt] presenting cheque to Jillian Fine, Administrator Fund for Higher Jewish Education.

David Lesnie ‘Maurice Alexander Scholarship Fund’ [rt] presenting cheque to Jillian Fine, Administrator Fund for Higher Jewish Education.

Maurice Alexander was a prominent Jewish parliamentarian, merchant and philanthropist in nineteenth century Australia.  On his death, the Maurice Alexander Scholarship Fund was established by Indenture dated 13 December 1876 and registered at the Registrar General’s office, Sydney, as number 512 Book 166.  The whole of the Fund came from Maurice Alexander’s estate. The purpose of the Fund was to endow scholarships for up to 3 Jewish students per year to undertake undergraduate studies at the University of Sydney. The income generated by the Fund was used for this purpose for 138 years. For most of its life, the existence of the Fund would have been largely unknown to all but a handful of people in the Jewish community, as it quietly provided benefits to students over many generations.

With inflation and significant increases in the costs of education, the capital of the Fund gradually diminished.  The diminished capital and continuing low interest rates meant that the Fund was no longer financially able to continue to provide meaningful benefits for deserving students.  The trustees of the Fund and its chair, David Lesnie, therefore decided to wind it up and to donate the surplus funds to the Fund for Jewish Higher Education, a JCA constituent which has operated since 1981 and promotes and encourages teaching and research in the full range of Jewish studies at tertiary level.  This can include the provision of limited financial assistance to students undertaking such studies.

Peter Wertheim, the chair of the Fund for Jewish Higher Education is ‘delighted  that the Fund for Jewish Higher Education can continue in a somewhat different way to fulfil the vision, after more than a century, of one of Australia’s first Jewish communal benefactors.  Our trustees intend that in future years, if there are sufficient funds available to grant scholarships to students at the University of Sydney, the first scholarship to be awarded will be referred to in all our communications as ‘the Maurice Alexander Scholarship’

On handing over the cheque, David Lesnie said ‘It is encouraging for potential donors to think that generous donations for education, albeit made 138 years ago, are still able to be perpetuated and continued in a form that gives benefactors confidence and satisfaction.  Our trustees decided that the work done by the Fund for Jewish Higher Education comes closest to the benevolent purposes fulfilled by the Maurice Alexander Fund.  We hope the remaining funds support the good work of FJHE in their endeavours to promote higher Jewish Education.’

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