Gary Rosenblatt’s poignant Feb. 19 column, “A Big Philanthropic Hole To Fill,” celebrated the incredible work of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies while sharing concern for who will take over after its sunsetting.
At Birthright Israel Foundation, carrying the flame that our founders lit is our most important endeavor. Sixteen years ago, Charles Bronfman and Michael Steinhardt had an idea – send young Jewish adults between the ages of 18 and 26 to Israel for a free 10-day educational trip. This incredible gift was originally made possible through the generosity of Charles, Michael and a dozen dedicated visionaries. During the first year of the program, more than 9,000 participants took part in Birthright Israel and our founders realized they were on to something big. Today, more than 500,000 participants from 66 countries have taken part in this life-changing experience. While our founders and many of the original funders are still active supporters of Birthright Israel today, we recognize that we must collaborate on both the funding and institutional fronts and cannot effectuate transformative change alone.
As Duke University’s Joel Fleishman noted in the article, he “worries every time a Jewish philanthropy of significant scale goes out of business … [there is] clearly a hole that few others are filling.” While this is a daunting thought, we believe that it is the responsibility of every member of the Jewish community to help engage the next generation.
Today, Birthright Israel Foundation averages more than 30,000 donors annually, ranging from $18 to multimillion-dollar donations, renewing our campaign each January. We strive to engage parents, grandparents and Birthright Israel alumni to make a difference for those who will come after us. It is our responsibility to carry the torch that was lit by the Bronfman family and so many others, by making sure we build the next generation of prideful Jewish adults so that programs like Birthright Israel can continue to impact our collective Jewish present and future.
President, Birthright Israel Foundation