Adelson family slashes Birthright funding, thousands of trips will be canceled

“The significant cost increases of our program mean that we will not be able to accommodate as many applicants in the coming years, and we know that those who miss out on a Birthright trip are unlikely to travel to Israel at all.” 

By Debbie Reiss, World Israel News

Birthright Israel is making drastic cutbacks to the program which offers free trips to Israel after the Adelson family reportedly withdrew tens of millions from the organization.

In a statement, Birthright said that thousands of trips would be cut out of budgetary concerns stemming from increased inflation and higher travel expenses post-COVID.

However, according to figures obtained by Haaretz, the Adelson Family Foundation has slashed its annual funds to Birthright from an average of $35 million to $40 million to just $20 million in 2022, and has further notified the program directors that that sum will again be cut in half for 2023, amounting to $10 million in donations.

For the past decade and a half, the Adelson family has been the single largest donor to Birthright, contributing an estimated half billion dollars to the program in total, the report said.

The funding cut began after the death of Sheldon Adelson nearly two years ago.

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Other donors are also slashing their gifts, Haaretz reported, adding that the program’s budget next year will total just over $100 million – a 25 percent drop from this year.

Birthright Israel Foundation’s CEO, Izzy Tapoohi, said it was a “myth” that “just a few large donors,” including the Government of Israel and the Adelson Family Foundation, fund the organization.

Founder Michael Steinhardt, also a large donor, has been beset by legal troubles.

Birthright will have brought a record 35,000 Jewish young adults from around the world to Israel in 2022, a number that the organization said could be reduced to 23,500 for 2023. The cost of bringing each participant was now up to $4,500, an increase of 30%, Birthright said.

To date, Birthright has brought an estimated 800,000 people to Israel.

“The significant cost increases of our program mean that we will not be able to accommodate as many applicants in the coming years, and we know that those who miss out on a Birthright trip are unlikely to travel to Israel at all,” Birthright Israel CEO Gidi Mark said in a statement provided to World Israel News.

“There has never been a more critical need for Birthright Israel than now,” he added. “Without a major immediate increase in fundraising, we will be hard-pressed to have the positive effect we’ve had on many individuals – and that will inevitably impact American Jewish organizations that are used to seeing enthusiastic young adults return from Israel and take major roles in the Jewish community.”

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