Jewish Community / Jews in America

“Birthright Israel manifests the interlacing power of identity and endowment in American Jewish life”

Birthright Israel, the nonprofit organization that Steinhardt started in 1999 with his billionaire friend Charles Bronfman to fund free trips to Israel for young Jews, epitomizes this shift. From its financing to its goals, Birthright manifests the interlacing power of identity and endowment in American Jewish life. The organization’s small handful of megadonors — including not only Steinhardt but also Bronfman, who has offered a defense of Steinhardt’s alleged misconduct, and Sheldon Adelson — have gained remarkable power from it, not to mention the tax benefits they secure from their foundations and donations. Birthright is a program meant for the masses, but controlled by the few, a fine illustration of Jewish philanthropy more generally.

Lila Corwin Berman, “Michael Steinhardt and the takeover of Jewish philanthropy by mega-donors”, Washington Post (22 March 2019) [https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2019/03/22/michael-steinhardt-takeover-jewish-philanthropy-by-mega-donors]