Philanthropist likes Birthright as bulwark against intermarriage
Adelson in Hong Kong last month.(Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)
Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson is arguably the most important person in the world of Jewish philanthropy. The one-time third-richest man in the world (the stock in his company, Las Vegas Sands, has fallen, pushing him down to 25th) has donated millions to Yad Vashem, Jerusalem’s Shalem Center, and particularly Birthright. Adelson is also the owner of Israel HaYom, Israel’s second-largest daily. And, as a New Yorker profile last year illustrated, he holds solidly right-wing views on the Palestine question. JTA’s Fundermentalist blogger scored an interview with him. A few notable answers follow.
How has your stance on Israel evolved over the years?
… I met my wife 21 years ago, and I became cemented more and more to the State of Israel. She is Israeli. Her children are Israeli, and we have all become one big family. I have gotten involved because I spent an awful lot of time there. I am a strong Zionist, and I do what it takes for the support of the State of Israel.
Where do you stand with AIPAC these days?
I believe in AIPAC.
Do you still stand behind Netanyahu now that he has come out in favor of a two-state solution?
I am not against a two-state solution if it is on the right terms. But I don’t think the right terms will ever be achieved.
In Israel, your political involvement is well known …
What political involvement? I am not involved politically in Israel. Period. And everybody thinks I started the newspaper Israel HaYom purely to benefit Bibi. Nothing could be further from the truth. I started the newspaper to give Israel, Israelis, a fair and balanced view of the news and the views. That’s all. It is not “Bibi-ton.” It is not a newspaper started for and operated for Bibi. And this is the propaganda of our competitors to say to their customers, “Don’t take Israel Hayom seriously because all it is is a promotion for Bibi. …”
Have you found any [reports on Jewish organizations] that appeal to you?
Sure. The most important one that we do is Birthright Israel. The study by Brandeis just came out to show that the rate of intermarriage here is 58 percent. Only 42 percent of the American Jews married within the Jewish religion. Today about 76 percent [of Birthright alumni who have tied the knot married] within the religion. … How much more can one contribute to Jewish continuity?
Sitting Down with Sheldon Adelson [JTA]
Related: The Brass Ring [The New Yorker]