Philanthropists Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson announced a new $5 million 2011 challenge gift to the Birthright Israel Foundation, as part of their ongoing commitment to fund the educational trips of Taglit-Birthright Israel for Jewish young adults. In all, the Adelson Family Foundation has contributed over $100 million to Birthright Israel since 2007.
The Adelsons share the desire of the founders of Birthright Israel Foundation to help the organization transition from one funded solely by philanthropists to one which has broad grassroots support of the North American Jewish community. To that end, the announced gift will serve as a matching grant, which essentially will double gifts from new donors, increased gifts from current donors or new designated gifts through Federations.
The Adelson challenge will help promote Birthright Israel’s goal of increasing participant numbers – from 30,000 a year today to 51,000 annually by 2013, almost doubling the number of young adults able to go on the Taglit-Birthright Israel trip. Reaching this new record number of participants would mean that one of every two young Jewish adults would be able to participate. At the beginning of the year, the Government of Israel announced $100 million in funding over three years, contingent on matching funds raised in North America and other Jewish Communities around the world. The Birthright Israel Foundation hopes to raise $58.6 million this year, up from $49 million raised last year. Beyond the Adelson Family Foundation pledge, there has been a 20% increase in the campaign so far this year compared to funds raised in the same period in 2010.
In May, at a reception for Birthright Israel’s most generous donors in New York City, Mr. Adelson told the story of his parents who had always wanted to travel to Israel, but could not afford it. Eventually, Mr. Adelson was able to cover the cost of his parents’ trip, but by then they were unable to travel and, in the end, passed away without visiting Israel. “I made a promise that I would do everything I could to help any young person who wanted to visit Israel to be able to do so,” Adelson said.