A Welcome Message from Bernard Otterman:
As a young man and Holocaust survivor, one reason I decided to pursue a PhD in Mechanical Engineering was my hope that university life would give me the freedom to repair the world and be active in civic activities for the greater good. Indeed, while at Northeastern University, inspired by the call of the Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov for cooperation between superpowers, I formed an organization called Students for World Cooperation. Sakharov's journey from thermonuclear weapons designer to civil liberty champion and recipient of the 1975 Nobel Peace Prize still inspires me to this day. Reflecting on his early work with nuclear weapons, Sakharov later said:
"What most troubles me now is the instability of the balance, the extreme peril of the current situation, the appalling waste of the arms race... Each of us has a responsibility to think about this in global terms, with tolerance, trust, and candor, free from ideological dogmatism, parochial interests, or national egotism.”
As I grew older I became more intentional in my efforts to heal the world. In 2007, I established the Bernard and Sandra Otterman Foundation (BSOF), a 501(c)3 charitable organization, to further Sakhorov's call to "think in global terms." Initial grants were awarded to organizations memorializing and teaching about the Holocaust, like the Kupferberg Holocaust Resource Center and Archives. Cognizant of the ability of the arts to foster coexistence, I supported nonprofit literary organizations including Poets & Writers and Four Way Books.
In 2015, my son Michael officially joined BSOF with a mandate to expand our global giving initiatives. Bringing his own human rights and NGO experience to the fore, with Michael we've decided to focus our philanthropy towards bolstering Middle East education—one sure path to lasting peace in the region. Our recent partnerships have included the Rashi Foundation to support after-school programs for Bedouin students in the Negev and an exciting pilot program with the University of the Middle East Project (UME) on nuclear non-proliferation education for secondary school teachers from the Middle East. The BSOF is excited about our collaboration with the UME and the Rashi Foundation in 2016 on this vital work for the region.
- Bernard Otterman, December 2015