NEW YORK, May 23, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The Birthright Israel Foundation today announced a new $40 million gift from Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson that continues their commitment to fund free, 10-day educational trips for Jewish young adults between the ages of 18 – 26. The gift brings the Adelsons' total donations to the program to an historic $180 million, making them by far the world's largest private donors to Birthright Israel.
The donation from the Adelson Family Foundation will make it possible for thousands more young people to experience Birthright Israel in 2013. Their gift includes a new $20 million challenge grant.
"Sheldon and I are committed to improving the world through cultural exchange and educational opportunity," said Dr. Miriam Adelson, who has both Israeli and U.S. citizenship. "Exposing young Jews to Israel helps broaden their awareness and deepen their cultural identity. We are committed to the goal of all young Jewish adults having the opportunity to be inspired by their ancestral homeland."
Sheldon Adelson added, "As a proud American, I celebrate Israel's commitment to liberty and democratic values. By supporting Birthright, Miriam and I want to give young people not only an enjoyable experience, but also knowledge of Israeli society, and the desire to live for a cause larger than themselves. At a time when misinformation about Israel abounds, Birthright Israel offers young people direct experience of the actual country, thus making the trip one of the most effective educational tools to strengthen young people's connection with the Jewish state."
The Adelsons' commitment was lauded by Birthright Israel leaders.
"We are so grateful to the Adelsons for their dedicated support of Birthright Israel," said Taglit-Birthright Israel CEO Gidi Mark. "Their extraordinary generosity, as well as their personal involvement in helping encourage others to support the program, speaks to their belief in Birthright's impact on the tens of thousands who make the trip each year. With this new gift, we plan to send in excess of 40,000 participants on trips in 2013. Our program connects young adult Jews with Israel as their birthright. Our vision—and it is shared by the Adelsons—is for Birthright Israel to become a permanent milestone in becoming a Jewish adult."
Key components of the trip are meeting and living with Israelis of the same age, many of whom are serving in the Israel Defense Forces and securing Israel as a democracy. This is an opportunity for Birthright Israel participants to get to know Israel through its people. Together, Israelis and their peers in the Diaspora explore their views about personal, religious, and political identities and ideologies. They also discuss what it means to serve one's country, dedicate oneself to a democratic state and to defend one's people.
According to David Fisher, president of the Foundation, "The Adelsons' extraordinary philanthropic investment in the program is vital to building the future of our Jewish community. Since their initial support of the program in 2007, when we had 3,700 donors and raised $65.7 million, we now proudly note that we have more than 25,000 donors who support Birthright Israel, and they have contributed in excess of $500 million. The Adelsons' challenge grants have motivated donors at all levels to join in support of Birthright Israel."
The Adelson challenge will match dollar for dollar new and increased gifts for commitments made in 2013 and for the years 2014 – 2015.
"In combination with the Adelsons' new challenge gift and through other partner support, Birthright Israel will be able to continue to achieve record participation numbers," continued Fisher.
Since 2000, Birthright Israel has brought some 350,000 Jewish young adults to Israel from over 62 countries, from all 50 U.S. states and from all Canadian provinces and territories, as well as 65,000 Israelis through the Mifgash program, the encounter program that brings together Israelis and Birthright Israel participants.
With trips taking place in two sessions annually --- winter (December – March) and spring/summer (May – October) --- attendees visit Jewish historical sites, places of religious pilgrimage, history museums, Holocaust remembrance sites, arts and cultural events, among others. Themes covered include the creation of the modern state of Israel, eternal values of the Jewish people, spiritual heritage of the Jewish nation, encounters with Israeli peers, as well as science, technology, ecology and the environment.
Birthright Israel is a partnership between the Government of Israel, private philanthropists and Jewish communities around the world (the Jewish Federations of North America, the Jewish Agency for Israel and Keren Hayesod). Visit www.BirthrightIsrael.com.
Contact: Andrea Pass
SOURCE The Birthright Israel Foundation