Educational Institutions


  • New York, NY

Mission Statement

Thanks To Scandinavia, a scholarship fund, recognizes the ordinary people who performed extraordinary acts in Scandinavia and Bulgaria during WWII which saved tens of thousands of their Jewish neighbors. Thanks To Scandinavia celebrates those who demonstrated courage, tolerance and civility even in dark times. To honor their legacy, Thanks To Scandinavia provides scholarships to students from Scandinavia and Bulgaria who are pushing the boundaries of knowledge and working to create positive change in our world.

Thanks To Scandinavia provides scholarships each year to students from Scandinavia and Bulgaria who are pursuing graduate degrees in the United States and Israel.

Thanks To Scandinavia derives inspiration from history, highlighting the enduring values of civility and tolerance through an ongoing dialogue.

Founded by Danish entertainer Victor Borge and New York attorney Richard Netter in 1963, Thanks To Scandinavia has been ahead of the times in highlighting the heroic individuals and communities who strove to make the world a better place during dark times.

Thanks To Scandinavia keeps alive the inspiring stories, many of them little known, of how Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish and Bulgarian people protected thousands of their Jewish neighbors during the Holocaust, often at great personal risk.

Main Programs

  1. Scholarships/Educational Trips/Fellowship
Service Areas



We offer scholarships to deserving scholars from the Scandinavian countries and Bulgaria to enable them to pursue graduate studies in the U.S. and Israel.

ruling year




Ms. Laurie Netter Sprayregen

Executive Director since 2013


Ms. Kelly Ramot




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Cause Area (NTEE Code)

Scholarships, Student Financial Aid, Awards (B82)

IRS Filing Requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

Programs + Results

How does this organization make a difference?


Self-reported by organization

The programs of Thanks To Scandinavia have been effective in fulfilling our goal of awarding scholarships to graduate students from Scandinavia and Bulgaria as a way of paying forward the debt owed to citizens of these countries who saved so many of their Jewish neighbors from Nazi aggression during WWII because we have been able to award more than 3,500 scholarships since our founding, adding more scholarships each year, and growing our constituency of supporters and fundraising revenues, which increased 300% in our last fiscal year. Our meaningful impact lies in the fact that our graduating scholars have been actively engaged in their own acts of kindness, making the world a better place for us all.


Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Program 1

Scholarships/Educational Trips/Fellowship

Thanks To Scandinavia (TTS) provides dozens of scholarships to graduate students from Scandinavia and Bulgaria each year, enabling them to study the subject of their choice in the United States and Israel. Additionally, TTS annually hosts a group of 16 journalism students from the Scandinavian countries for a weeklong trip to New York to learn about multiculturalism. The trip is intended to broaden their understanding of what it means to live in a “melting pot” and how people of different faiths, cultures, backgrounds, and beliefs can not only coexist but thrive together, all the while recognizing and examining the many challenges created by such a melting pot. TTS also funds a music therapy fellowship for a Scandinavian student at the Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital in New York.


Postsecondary Education

Population(s) Served





Charting Impact

Self-reported by organization

Five powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

  1. What is the organization aiming to accomplish?
    Thanks To Scandinavia (TTS) is a scholarship fund founded in 1963, uniquely focused on paying forward the tremendous debt owed to heroic Scandinavians and Bulgarians who, despite great personal risk, saved many of their Jewish neighbors from Nazi aggression during World War II. We aim to accomplish this by awarding scholarships to deserving graduate students from the Scandinavian countries and Bulgaria who wish to enhance their education by coming to the U.S. or Israel to pursue advanced studies in their selected fields. By investing in talented youth, we honor and keep alive stories of courageous individuals who did the right thing when the right thing was hard to do, and encourage similar acts of courage going forward.

    The determined mission of TTS is based on that of our founders, Danish music legend Victor Borge, and his friend attorney Richard Netter, who joined forces as a result of Mr. Borge's personal experience as a native of Denmark. When the Nazis invaded, his satire of Hitler earned him a position on the blacklist, and he was forced to escape to the U.S., where he flourished for nearly 70 years, performing on radio, film, television, and even at the White House.

    WWII rescue stories - particularly the way in which Danes ferried 7,200 Jews to safety in neutral Sweden during the fateful month of October 1943 - are rapidly fading from collective memory. Given the current Mideast turmoil and the crisis of Syrian refugees -- who comprise the world's greatest migration since WWII -- we believe tremendous power resides in showcasing these stories as a way to inspire positive global citizenship. As TTS co-founder Richard Netter, said: “Acts of heroism and courage are all too seldom seen in history. We felt it was vital to hold up these stories of humanity as examples to learn from today, and that we could play a part in making sure that they were remembered."

    Through strategic relationships with leading universities, schools and educational programs across America, we enable talented individuals to attain their fullest life potential by providing: 1) Access to the world's most vibrant academic environment; 2) Inspiration for creative thinking through exposure to American multiculturism; 3) Immersion in our American system of free governance and human rights. Our hope is that the seeds we plant will ultimately promote global kindness and good citizenship. In the words of Nobel Laureate Elie Weisel: “Our obligation is to give meaning to life and in doing so to overcome the passive, indifferent life."
  2. What are the organization's key strategies for making this happen?
    Our basic strategy is to capitalize on Victor Borge's statement: “We condemn the bad, but we must remember to praise the good," by cultivating intergenerational and international connections that make a positive difference. Since 1963, we've distributed more than 3,500 scholarships to Scandinavian and Bulgarian students. Annually, we typically award 20 scholarships of up to $20,000 each. The number of scholarships we can distribute is a function of our communications and fundraising efforts among our growing “family," a connectedness we value highly.

    Since the passing of our founders, our leadership has progressed to a second generation. President Laurie Netter Sprayregen, daughter of Richard Netter, is now at the helm of our Board of Directors. Their collective commitment to our mission has been forged through family experience of war and strong personal commitment to the betterment of the global community.

    Our family also embraces corporate and foundation supporters, and individual donors, many of whom have been moved by WWII rescues of their relatives. Myra Goodman, founder of Earthbound Farm, told us: “I want to honor my mother by establishing a scholarship in her name. She's 87, and I've been encouraging her to share her [rescue] story, so everyone, including my own children, can be inspired by her positive spirit. She's thrilled our family is contributing to the education of a talented young scholar."

    Our educational website, Facebook page, and e-newsletter also keep alive rescue stories of TTS friends, such as Dr. Ruth Westheimer, who taped a special video sharing her escape from Poland via Great Britain's 1939 Kindertransport ("children's transport") to help promote our work. Our website features other educational resources, which can be downloaded or provided free of charge.

    Our family is completed by our scholars who represent the brightest in their fields. Grateful for opportunities we afford them, they regularly update us on their progress through letters and interaction at bi-annual receptions. We post on social media successes of such students as Kalle Mattila, a second-generation scholar (his mother received a TTS scholarship in 1993) whose writing has been published twice by The New York Times while he's been a TTS scholar. He says: “I'm writing a book about the American Dream from the perspective of a Finn. I think a lot about freedom and independence, and what those things mean in terms of language and culture –– who we are and what we can become."
  3. What are the organization's capabilities for doing this?
    To provide our visiting scholars with the resources they need in order to pursue the widest range of graduate studies, over the past 54 years TTS has developed relationships with more than 150 leading U.S. and Israeli education centers. These include prestigious U.S. universities such as Yale, Duke, Georgetown, Stanford, University of Pennsylvania, University of Michigan, and institutions such as the New School and New York School of Visual Arts; along with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. We've also partnered with schools where we've established TTS endowments, including University of Chicago Law School, Cornell, Columbia and University of Oklahoma.

    TTS has also been instrumental in helping to develop innovative educational programs such as the Louis Armstrong Thanks To Scandinavia Training Program in Music and Medicine, which was created in partnership with Dr. Joanne Loewy of The Louis Armstrong Center for Music & Medicine at Mount Sinai Beth Israel, a leader in the use of music therapy to enhance the patient experience. This program provides music therapy practitioners from Scandinavia with clinical training, theoretical knowledge, and research toward the development of multi-cultural understanding. Dr. Loewy says: “We're pleased our partnership with TTS is resulting in success stories, like that of Julie Mangersnes, a recent TTS Fellow, who is now applying her center knowledge to her work at The Oslo University Hospital, the largest medical center in Scandinavia."

    By placing TTS scholars in a wide range of communities and educational settings we're maximizing opportunities for the fullest cultural exchange and reinforcement of the social values that make Scandinavia and the U.S. so exceptional. TTS scholar Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein is working towards his Ph.D. in History at the University of Pennsylvania. He says: “My family's background story, having come to Sweden, fleeing religious persecution in the Baltics and Hungary, was an important part of my application to the University of Pennsylvania, since it's one of the main reasons for my interest in history. I suspect that the university remembered this from my application, and thought that the connection between my Scandinavian-Jewish background and the purpose of the scholarship made me seem like a suitable candidate."
  4. How will they know if they are making progress?
    Quantitatively, we know we're on the right track because our fundraising numbers are rising. From 2015 to 2016, for example, TTS experienced a more than 300% increase in revenue, including an expansion of foundation grants and major gifts from private donors. We attribute this in part, to our ability to more energetically communicate our message via social media, including our educational website, Facebook page and e-newsletter. As we've reached more people, WWII survivors, like Danish Jew Steen Metz (who was rescued by the Swedish “White Buses"), have shared more personal rescues, reinforcing our ability to effect change by keeping their stories alive. Steen says: “I would like to thank Kelly Ramot, the Executive Director of Thanks to Scandinavia for giving me an opportunity to share my Holocaust experiences with the readers and members of the association. I would also be remiss if I did not thank my countryman, Victor Borge - and Richard Netter - for having the vision to found the organization. Just thinking about Victor Borge makes me smile! “

    Anecdotally, we've received a good deal of positive feedback over years that our investment in young people is making a positive impact. Many of our high-achieving scholarship recipients have themselves undertaken the goal of paying their personal debt forward by through beneficial social interaction. One such exemplar is Karl Anker Jorgensen who – with our support - was able to study chemistry at Cornell University under Nobel Laureate Roald Hoffman. After returning to Denmark, he eventually became Chairman of Chemistry at Aarhus University, home of the Danish National Research Foundation Centre for Catalysis. He says: “My job is really just to create the best possible conditions for the young researchers to enable them to excel independently while remaining accountable."

    Academically, TTS has been able to expand our lexicon of scholarship offerings. This year we've added five new $20,000 scholarships, and we marked our 53rd anniversary by creating the organization's first-ever Thanks To Scandinavia Victor Borge Music Scholarship, which we awarded to Swedish violinist Niklas Tamm in support of study towards his MA in Orchestral Conducting at the University of Michigan. Niklas is already considering paying his scholarship forward: “I am thinking about starting my own orchestra to create job opportunities for my friends and me. Here in the US, a lot of people do things like that, but in Sweden it's much more unusual."
  5. What have and haven't they accomplished so far?
    Over the past 54 years TTS has provided an important forum for WWII survivors and their families to have their voices heard and showcase their rescuers as inspirational exemplars for current and future generations. Since our founding in 1963, other international organizations have been established -- notably the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Commission (1980) and the Shoah Foundation (1994) -- which have helped reinforce the historic desirability of remembering the worst, but striving for the best of humanity.

    Yet the mission of TTS, to thank Scandinavians and Bulgarians for their WWII bravery by fostering the best and brightest of their youth, remains unique. In commemoration of 2016 Holocaust Remembrance Day, we celebrated this achievement by donating a nameplate from one of the fishing boats used in the Danish rescue of the Jews in 1943 to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. In 1968, the US Embassy in Denmark gave this nameplate to Richard Netter in appreciation of his work, and we were pleased to give it a permanent home in the museum. We're also proud of our educational work in underwriting the publication of a series of books about the rescue of Jews in Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden, featured on our website.

    One of our current goals is to use social media to bring our community of 3,500 scholarship alumni into a more coherent network. During the early years of our operation, computer databases were non-existent, so we've been backtracking to find out what our scholars are doing to help make the world a better place. We'd like to hear from more TTS scholars like Laura Sundblad, who says: “TTS gave me the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people I would not otherwise have met. I also learned for the first time about the rescues, which I'd never heard about in Finland. I see connections between what happened then and what is happening now with the rise of xenophobia, racism and intolerance in Europe, and I know that each of us can do something to help. The Alumni Association will enable me and others to stay involved with TTS and its mission. I think it's exciting to have the opportunity to give back and stay connected."
    And there's such more to do. There are many other inspirational stories to share and international links of kindness and compassion to forge. We're working with our board of directors and other supporters to deepen their commitment to this work and help us identify others who might wish to help inspire the world by moving our work forward.
Service Areas



We offer scholarships to deserving scholars from the Scandinavian countries and Bulgaria to enable them to pursue graduate studies in the U.S. and Israel.

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Ms. Laurie Netter Sprayregen

Executive Director

Ms. Kelly Ramot


Laurie Netter Sprayregen is an inspirational role model for Jewish women through her dedicated leadership and not-for-profit service on the boards of three community organizations.

As President of Thanks To Scandinavia, an international scholarship fund founded by her father Richard Netter, and entertainer Victor Borge, Laurie is devoted to honoring and keeping alive the bravery of thousands of Scandinavians and Bulgarians who saved many of their Jewish neighbors from Nazi aggression during World War II. “These extraordinary acts of heroism by ordinary citizens are an exemplar for humanity that continues to resonate today," Laurie says. Over the past 53 years, Thanks To Scandinavia has paid this debt forward by awarding more than 3,500 scholarships to Scandinavian and Bulgarian students seeking graduate studies in the US and Israel at such prestigious universities as Cornell, Columbia, and Yale, the University of Chicago Law School, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

As a Vice President of the Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services, the largest mental health agency in the New York area, Laurie spearheads the organization's mission to strengthen families and communities by helping individuals of all backgrounds realize their potential and live as independently as possible. As Chair of the Jewish Board's fifteen mental health clinics located throughout New York's five boroughs, Ms. Sprayregen plays a lead role in providing mental health care for over 10,000 of the most vulnerable New Yorkers annually.

As Founding Member and Co-Chair of the Advisory Board of, a public radio station broadcasting from Fordham University, Laurie assists in providing on-the-job training for 70 Fordham students each year, and maintaining the station as New York's resource for music discovery. WFUV has been a noncommercial, member-supported public media service of Fordham University for more than 65 years, and has received national recognition for its unique weekday format of adult album alternative music, award-winning local news and sports, and a diverse weekend lineup.

Throughout all of her service, Laurie has mentored countless individuals, helping to change their lives by advocating on their behalf and connecting them to others in the community. She is especially devoted to the many Scandinavian students who she has nurtured over the years, finding them professional employment opportunities and places to live. Laurie is a graduate of Cornell University. She lives in New York City with her husband, Philip Sprayregen, a managing principal with the firm Sprayregen Real Estate Advisors, a commercial real estate advisory boutique. The couple has two adult children, Jim and Dale.



Ms. Laurie N Sprayregen

Thanks to Scandinavia


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