Philanthropist gives $5 million to Birthright

new york | Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, will donate an estimated $5 million for 2,000 young adults to participate in a Birthright Israel trip. The individuals are among the 20,000 to 40,000 who are on the waiting list for birthright, which provides free 10-day trips to Israel.

The development comes amid speculation that Adelson is about to start a foundation that would give between $200 million and $250 million annually to Jewish causes and Israel.

The organization announced the gift at its banquet Monday, Dec. 11.

Associates of Adelson have said that he is contemplating underwriting the entire Birthright Israel waiting list, but that deal is not yet in its final stages.

Adelson, the CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp., which owns and operates the Sands and the Venetian Casino Resort in Las Vegas, seems to be positioning himself as one of the top American Jewish philanthropists.

The son of a Boston cab driver, Adelson, 74, first made the Forbes Fortune 400 list in 1995 after selling his computer trade-show company Comdex for over $800 million.

After buying the Sands and taking it public, his wealth skyrocketed. Adelson now is building a Vegas-like strip in China.

In November he and his wife, an Israeli-born doctor, gave $25 million to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Israel. He is building a state-of-the-art, $25 million Jewish community high school in Las Vegas, where he lives.

According to his longtime friend Arthur Marshall, the chairman of the Bank of Nevada, Adelson is fulfilling his dream by giving to Jewish causes.

“We were at an AIPAC meeting several years ago at the Venetian,” Marshall said. “Sheldon leaned over to me and said, ‘Art, at the end of my life, all of the money and hotels won’t mean anything to me. The only thing that will count is if I do something for my people.'”

Birthright, which started providing free trips to Israel for Jews aged 18 to 25 in 2000, sent its 100,000th participant to the Jewish state this summer.

Started by philanthropists Michael Steinhardt and Charles Bronfman, the program has been funded by private philanthropists, the Jewish Agency for Israel, the Israeli government and the North American federation system.

But as its popularity grew, Birthright has struggled to find enough funding for everyone who wanted to go.

“We have to get a lot bigger quicker if we hope to stem the tide’ of declining Jewish identity in the diaspora, Steinhardt said.