WHO ARE THE MARCUSES? – Review by Lois Alter Mark

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Who Are The Marcuses? is a must-see new documentary from Matthew Mishory, and it’s fascinating and eye-opening. It’s also surprising because:

  • It proves that a single gift can change the world.
  • It shows how water is directly related to world peace.
  • It’s about water and philanthropy – and yet it’s absolutely riveting.
  • In 2016, Howard and Lottie Marcus made a $500 million donation to Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. It was the largest charitable gift in the history of the State of Israel and yet no one seemed to know who they were.

    It turns out the Jewish couple had fled Germany before the start of World War II and immigrated to New York. Howard started a career on Wall Street, eventually going to work for Warren Buffett during the early days of Berkshire Hathaway, where he learned about – and apparently profited from – value-based investing. (Buffett is interviewed in the movie about a variety of subjects and is both insightful and inspiring.)

    According to the Marcuses’ daughter, Helen, Howard always considered it a miracle that he had been able to make it out of Germany and get to America. Grateful, he was determined to give back and he wanted to support Israel.

    Howard and Lottie’s goal was to make a contribution to world peace and they believed water scarcity could be the cause of conflict. Amazingly, all the issues that were important to them were able to come together in their history-making donation.

    Here’s where the movie takes a turn and does a deep dive into the relationship between water and, well, everything. We learn that a significant percentage of the population does not have access to safe, clean water and that, when you understand the interconnectedness of all countries, you realize that the next world war could be fought over water.

    “Our heroes will be our water engineers,” wrote Theodor Herzl about the Jewish homeland of Israel in 1902. And, in a self-fulfilling prophecy (and a lot of hard work), Israel has become a leader in water infrastructure – out of necessity from being in the middle of the desert. The country is using cutting edge technology to desalinate the Mediterranean Sea and reclaim wastewater, and they’re sharing their results.

    The third part of the documentary focuses on the necessity of philanthropy to get vital things done. Experts explain that Individual philanthropy can do a lot that government can’t because of politics and bureaucracy. They also point out that we’re experiencing the greatest wealth in human history and those resources can do so much to improve the world.
    Warren Buffett discusses The Giving Pledge, his call for the wealthiest individuals to give away the majority of their wealth during their lifetime, and he describes the Marcuses as “visionary” for their world-changing gift.

    Check out the documentary and honors its intention by making a donation to a cause that’s important to you. Because of its far-reaching impact and its messages that are universal, you don’t have to be Jewish to love Who Are the Marcuses?

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    Lois Alter Mark

    Lois Alter Mark is an award-winning writer who reviews films on Midlife at the Oasis. A former contributing writer for Entertainment Weekly for more than a decade, she also reviewed films for NickJr.com for many years. She is a member of San Diego Film Critics Society and tweets from @loisaltermark. She writes about travel for USA Today and Forbes.