Helene Westreich Film and Television Studio Inaugurated at Tel Aviv University

High-definition studio an invaluable resource for young Israeli filmmakers

William F. Cohen and Gail White
William F. Cohen and Gail White

In loving tribute to the late Helene Westreich — philanthropist, humanitarian, and patron of the arts — the Helene Westreich Film and Television Studio was inaugurated at the Department of Film and Television on Friday, June 8, as part of Tel Aviv University's annual Board of Governors Meeting. The newly upgraded studio was made possible through the generosity of Westreich's children, William F. Cohen, Chairman Emeritus of American Friends of Tel Aviv University, and Gail White, both members of AFTAU's Board of Directors.

Helene Westreich
Helene Westreich

Working with the Department of Film and Television to honor their mother's memory has allowed them to bond her life-long love of film with the family's long-standing commitment to Tel Aviv University, said Cohen, speaking on behalf of his sister and himself at the ceremony.  "Gail and I knew this was the right project for us — my mother was passionate about the movies," he said, sharing fond memories of sitting in bed and watching American classic movies with his mother.

Already operational, the state-of-the-art, high-definition studio includes all the professional equipment needed by students to produce finished film projects, including a control room, three industry-standard cameras and more.

Honoring a generous spirit

Gail White and William F. Cohen
Gail White and William F. Cohen

A celebration of the life of Westreich, the inauguration was a heartfelt commemoration of a generous and loving soul. "We at TAU did not have the pleasure and privilege of knowing Helene Westreich, and it is a pity that we can only share in honoring her after her passing away. Nevertheless we have come to learn that she was a grand lady, an elegant lady, as her friends remember her," said Prof. Hannah Naveh, Dean of the Yolanda and David Katz Faculty of the Arts, who thanked Cohen and White for their continuing support of the University.

Until her passing in 2010, Westreich was a vibrant and active part of her community, and the heart of her extended family. Her philanthropy encompassed a number of humanitarian and Jewish causes, including Mt. Sinai Medical Center in Florida, the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Museum of Tolerance, the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, and the City of Hope Cancer Center. She was a benefactor of educational institutions, supporting fellowships at Tel Aviv University, and a patron of the arts, including the Miami City Ballet.

William F. Cohen and Reuven Hecker
William F. Cohen and Dr. Reuven Hecker,
Head of the Department of Film and Television

The Helene Westreich Film and Television Studio is particularly fitting part of her legacy, representing her children's and grandchildren's continued commitment to her lifelong philosophy of providing opportunity, hope and inspiration to others.

"In this spirit, Bill and Gail decided last year to commemorate their mother by naming a film and television studio after her," said Prof. Naveh. "When making their decision, they spoke to us of their mother's love of the arts — and thought this would be a loving and thoughtful gesture, which would bond their mother's memory with their commitment to TAU and its Film School, thus spreading the wings of her charity and philanthropy across to Israel."

Fostering talent in the arts

Trained by the most acclaimed film program in the country, students and alumni of the Department of Film and Television continue to rise to the top of the field, with their work routinely showcased at international film festivals including Cannes, Berlin, and Sundance. They cite hands-on film production — to an exacting standard — as an essential component in their professional development.

Reuven Hecker and William F. Cohen
Dr. Reuven Hecker and William F. Cohen

Cohen and White are second generation supporters of TAU, dedicated to strengthening the university. They are benefactors of the B.I. and Lucille Cohen Institute for Public Opinion Research, part of the Gershon H. Gordon Faculty of Social Sciences in collaboration with the Statistics Laboratory. Using high quality survey methodology, the Institute conducts surveys for researchers from academic institutions and public organizations, and also gathers public opinion on matters that are important to Israeli society, tracing long-term trends in public opinion.

Developing close ties with the university has been truly enriching, said Cohen at the inauguration ceremony. "We as a family have gotten more out of this relationship with TAU than we ever gave to it. Walking around the campus and meeting the students is exactly what gets you so involved with this university." He has been a member of TAU's Board of Governors since 1996.

Cohen expressed the wish that the Helene Westreich Film and Television Studio would contribute to the continued success of the department in producing award-winning film professionals, expanding the boundaries of cinematic arts, and strengthening Israel's cultural impact worldwide.

For more American Friends of Tel Aviv University news, click here.

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