American billionaire Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Dr Miriam Adelson, donated on Sunday $30 million to the Taglit-Birthright Israel project, during an event sponsored by President Shimon Peres and held at his Jerusalem Residence.
"The gift by The Adelson Family Charitable Foundation (ADCF) will significantly contribute to fulfilling Taglit-birthright israel’s mission to provide every young Jew with the opportunity to visit Israel
for the first time," Taglit said in a statement.
Sunday’s gift came on the heels of a $25 million gift by the Foundation, established by Dr Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson in February, which enabled the organization to double the size of the Summer 2007 trips.
From Left to right: Taglit rep, Sheldon Adleson, Shimon Peres (Photo: Sivan Farag)
The first major gift of $5 million to Taglit-birthright israel by the Adelsons in December 2006 enabled those on waiting lists to participate in the winter trips to Israel. In total, ADCF has given $60 million to Taglit-birthright Israel in the last twelve months, the single largest calendar year gift to a Jewish continuity program in history.
Dr Miriam Adelson, a physician and native Israeli said, “A number of participants had told us that they had been on waiting lists for these trips, and only because of the increased trip capacity this summer, were able to participate in the program. I am so proud to share my beautiful country with so many young people and welcome ‘home’ our big, extended family.
"As we look forward to celebrating Israel’s 60th anniversary next year, we are honored to help ensure that any young Jew who wants to visit the wonderful nation of Israel has this opportunity of a lifetime,” she said.
Sheldon G. Adelson noted, “The birthright israel program is more than just an idea whose time has come. The program’s success in creating and maintaining Jewish continuity and a commitment to Israel is unparalleled. I remember how moved I was by my first visit to Israel. Israel is the heart and soul of the Jewish people. We are privileged to be able to play a small role in helping tomorrow’s Jews create a connection to Judaism and Israel today. What happens to the Jews of the Diaspora depends upon the fate of the Jews in Israel.”
Taglit-birthright israel will honor the Adelsons at a “mega event” on August 12 in Jerusalem, where participants from around the world will gather for an evening of entertainment and celebration.
“Our goal is to enable every eligible person to participate,” said Shimshon Shoshani, CEO of Taglit-birthright israel. “We are grateful to the Adelson family for their generous gift, which will help make an educational trip to Israel a right of passage for all Jews. A donation of $2,500 pays for one person’s trip – changing that person’s life forever. Support for Taglit-birthright israel – whether it’s $250, $2,500 or $25 million, helps to increase our capacity to meet the tremendous demand.”
According to Taglit, in terms of sheer numbers, at a cost of $2,500 per person, the Adelsons’ gift of $60 million to date means that an additional 24,000 Jews between the ages of 18 and 26 will be able to visit Israel through Taglit-birthright israel. The extra capacity provided by the Adelson gift will help eliminate the long waiting lists that have resulted from the program’s overwhelming popularity, the organization said.