Melvin M. Goldberg Scholarship Fund

By Julia Umansky
Director of Gift Planning & EITC

 

Every year, college juniors and seniors across the country apply for the chance to receive a scholarship to study and perform research in Israel. The Melvin M. Goldberg Fellowship for Research in Israel offers a $5,000 scholarship to a junior or senior student who demonstrates aptitude, interest in Israel, and the motivation to arrange a personalized research program.

 

Candidates must work with faculty at their home schools to develop a brief research proposal and confirm a willing supervisor at one of Israel’s universities or research centers (e.g., Bar-Ilan, Ben-Gurion, Haifa, Hebrew, Technion, Tel-Aviv, the Weizmann Institute) before they can be considered for the program. But how did this fellowship come to be and how has it persevered and grown for more than 30 years?  The answer? A philanthropic-focused family looking to honor their loved ones and give back to the community.

 

The Goldberg family has roots in the Lehigh Valley extending back to the 1960s when Melvin Goldberg moved his family to the area and began working at Bethlehem Steel as a researcher. The family became members at Brith Sholom in Bethlehem and all the kids attended local Hebrew School. Unfortunately, less than 20 years after moving to the Valley, Melvin Goldberg passed away; it was then that Melvin’s parents, Harry and Birdie; his wife, Ann; and his children gathered to discuss his legacy and memory. Melvin’s son Ken had recently gone to Israel after his father’s passing and spent six months doing research there. But while there were many opportunities available for Israelis looking to study and work in the United States, the opposite was true for Americans looking to do the same in Israel. Upon Ken’s return, he sat down with his grandparents and family friend Lenny Abrams and discussed the lack of opportunity to study in Israel and their desire to keep Melvin’s memory alive. It was Lenny who suggested developing a fellowship in Melvin’s honor and the Melvin M. Goldberg Fellowship for Research in Israel was born.

 

During its first few years, the scholarship program offered $2,000 to support a student doing research in Israel. Scholarships were awarded every year until interest started declining in the early 2000s and awarding of the fellowship halted while the funds themselves started to grow. Not wanting to abandon the program, the Goldberg family took this opportunity to grow the scholarship fund and rethink how they offered opportunities to candidates. With the fund increasing in value, the Goldbergs decided to increase the amount of the scholarship to $3,000 and, now in 2022, to $5,000. The increase in scholarship funds available saw an increase in candidates and a resurgence in the popularity of the program.

 

Ken Goldberg, Melvin’s son, now manages the Fellowship program from UC Berkeley and hopes to continue honoring his father’s legacy, love for education, and reverence for Israel. “Having lost family members in the Holocaust, our family deeply appreciates the role Israel plays in safeguarding Jews from danger today and from future threats. My father loved all aspects of engineering and also art and activism; we thought helping students do research was something he would be honored by,” said Ken.

 

What started as one man’s love for research, education, and Israel, has become a community program helping the youth of tomorrow and the homeland of the Jewish people.  By honoring Melvin’s memory and life, the Goldberg family is able to support their community and give back to the causes they value the most.