The Adelson Family Foundation is withdrawing its investment in Taglit, leading to deep cuts in the program that brings tens of thousands of young people on a free trip to Israel every year. The foundation cut its contribution from $40 million a year to $20 million in 2022 and will cut the remaining amount in half in 2023, according to several reports in Israel’s media.
Taglit-Birthright Israel is a not-for-profit educational organization that sponsors free ten-day heritage trips to Israel, including Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, for 18–32-year-olds of Jewish heritage. From the start of the program in the winter of 1999 through 2017, more than 600,000 young people from 67 countries have participated in the program. Some 80% of them were from the US and Canada.
More than half of Taglit’s funding comes from philanthropists, including Charles Bronfman, Edgar Bronfman, Daniel Och, Marlene Post, Lynn Schusterman, Michael Steinhardt, the late Sheldon Adelson, and his widow Miriam Adelson.
About one-quarter of the funding comes from the Government of Israel, and about one-fifth is contributed by Jewish organizations and communities through the United Jewish Communities (UJC), Keren Hayesod, and the Jewish Agency for Israel, as well as many leading private philanthropists. The program also receives funding from the German government, through the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
According to Birthright Israel, it has contributed more than NIS 2 billion ($575.7 million) to the Israeli economy.
The Adelson family was the most prominent donor to Taglit in the past 15 years, to the tune of about half a billion dollars. Sheldon Adelson passed away in January 2021, and since then his widow, Miriam Adelson, whose fortune is estimated at $30 billion, is in charge of the family foundation’s policy.
The cut in donations coincides with a sharp rise in Taglit’s expenses due to increased prices of plane tickets, Israeli hotel rooms, and other services. At this point, the cost of each participant’s trip averages $4,500. Taglit has already announced that it will be forced to cut the number of participants from 35 thousand in 2022 to 23,500 in 2023.
According to Forbs, Miriam Adelson, 77, is the richest Israeli woman and the fifth-richest woman in the world. Last February, after taking over her late husband’s influential freebee Israel Hayom which he created to support his favorite Israeli politician, Benjamin Netanyahu, Miriam cut off the newspaper’s gushing Bibi coverage. In September, she cut to $5 million her funding to the Republican party, after her late husband had donated half a billion dollars over ten years to the GOP. She remained, however, a committed admirer of former President Donald Trump and appears to favor Bezalel Smotrich’s Religious Zionism (Smotrich’s no. 2, Simcha Rothman, recently attended an Adelson event honoring Trump in the US).
Incidentally, Adelson is a staunch opponent of legalized marijuana, so, don’t expect Religious Zionism to raise the green-leaf flag any time soon.