Judy and Michael Steinhardt with their daughter, Sara Berman

American Friends of Tel Aviv University celebrated the opening of the new Steinhardt Museum of Natural History at Tel Aviv University, the first and only center for natural history research and outreach in the Middle East, at its 2016 Annual Gala on Dec. 7 in New York City.

The dinner honored Michael Steinhardt, philanthropist, financier, investor and one of the founding patrons behind Birthright Israel, whose vision and commitment made the museum possible. He also serves as chair of the Detroit Jewish News.

“The Steinhardt Museum will transform Israel into an academic global hub for natural history research, attracting hundreds of visiting scientists,” said Joseph Klafter, TAU president.

Steinhardt said, “I believe the 5 million-plus specimens that will be in the museum on opening day are already a dynamic record of Israel’s biodiversity and the history and evolution of humankind in the Middle East.” He celebrated his 76th birthday the night of the gala.

The Steinhardt Museum is set to open in the summer of 2017.

Judy and Michael Steinhardt with their daughter, Sara Berman