Today, Yeshiva University launched its annual Giving Day campaign with a splash, marshaling a constellation of stars to make the case for the Modern Orthodox school. “Yeshiva are amazing neighbors here in Washington Heights, and they have programs that benefit not just the Washington Heights neighborhood, but all over New York, so I hope you find it in your heart to give to them,” says Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda, a longtime supporter of the school who previously narrated a fundraising clip for it in 2016.
On its own, that would be enough, but the campaign also corralled Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and New York Yankees legend Mariano Rivera, among others:
How do you say no to this?
While these star-studded clips might seem surprising coming from the niche religious university, Y.U. is no stranger to celebrity endorsements. Its unique synthesis of Jewish and secular learning has attracted a wide array of backers over its 103-year history. Back in 1936, no less than Albert Einstein lent his name to fundraising efforts for the school and personally solicited scholarship dollars for it from the heads of major Hollywood studios.
“Yeshiva College in grave financial need,” he wrote in a telegram to the heads of Warner Bros., Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and Columbia Pictures. “Of paramount importance our brethren truly comprehend great significance Yeshiva College is destined to be for continuance of Jewish spirit and for spiritual balance of our youth. I trust you will interest yourself in what I deem a great cause and that you will help maintain the central position Yeshiva College holds in our cultural life.”
This and other appeals worked. One month later, Carl Laemmle, the founder of Universal Studios, endowed a $750 scholarship—the equivalent of $13,660 today—for every year for the rest of his life.