July 29, 2008
Birthright israel in big funding trouble
In my cover story this week about Hard Times in the Jewish community, I mentioned how the dropping dollar was killing internationally oriented organizations, particularly the American Jewish Joint Distribution Comittee, which cut 60 jobs, including 52 in Israel.
Others, like the United Jewish Communities, Hadassah, the New Israel Fund, pretty much anybody with operations overseas, have been hard hit.
“We grant in dollars,” Bennett Samson, national development director of the New Israel Fund, tells me. “So if we are giving a $1,000 grant, last year they were able to do 4,000 shekels worth of something with that. This year we give them $1,000, a flat renewal, and they are only able to do 3,200 shekels worth with that. We are giving our grants in dollars, but we know they can do less with that. And we are in the same boat; we’ve got 100 staffers in Israel.”
Now you can add Taglit-birthright israel, the wildly successful charity that since 2000 has taken 200,000 Jews, age 18-26, on their first trip to the Jewish state. Birthright’s not broke—how could an organization with an $80 million budget and sugar daddy Sheldon Adelson as its biggest benefactor be broke?—but co-founder Michael Steinhardt says that the dollar’s devaluation is crippling its resources and 2,000 fewer participants would be included on trips this winter.
Steinhardt speaks with the Fundermentalist after the jump: