When Gene Hoffman was growing up in Connecticut he was only a little boy, barely finished with kindergarten when he first faced discrimination for being Jewish. Prior to the 1940s and 1950s, Jews in America faced harsh realities of antisemitism. As our people began breaking into industries like entertainment and law, the antisemitism only worsened. From universities, hotels, country clubs, and medical professions – Jews faced restrictions.

Hoffman can recall getting into a fistfight at the age of four because he was Jewish. Eventually, he says he did become friends with the other child. More so, he says the antisemitism those in his generation faced, only made them more connected to their Jewish heritage.

“I think the Jews in my era understood our people better – we were more active in our Judaism because we had to be. There was a curiosity during this time of why us – I believe it made us want to learn more about who we are.”

As a philanthropist and supporter of Birthright Israel Foundation in Palm Beach, Hoffman strongly believes in Birthright Israel’s pilot program for 27-32-year-olds. He tells us young Jews today are becoming more unaffiliated than ever before and this pilot program presents an opportunity to engage them. 

“Birthright Israel gives our younger generations an opportunity to go to Israel and ask questions. It’s an opportunity to learn about their heritage and traditions. I personally would want to know a lot about the history of Israel. If we could show our younger generations Israel 3,000 years ago, they would know where we all come from and where our roots are.”

Today, through our educational framework, we are working hard to meet Hoffman’s wishes of going back 3,000 years. For example, young Jews put themselves in the shoes of our ancient ancestors atop Masada. It is here they learn stories of Jewish resistance and a will to stand up against oppression – a lesson that has never left the Jewish people. 

Hoffman is also honored to continue his own Jewish learning as he is pursuing a doctorate online through the Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership. Prior to studying for his doctorate, he received his master’s in Jewish studies from Gratz College. This yearning to learn is what connects him to Birthright Israel Foundation’s goal – to provide the gift of educational experience in Israel to every eligible young Jewish adult.  

He feels strongly that any program that he philanthropically invests in, has sound evaluative research. When he was first in touch with Birthright Israel Foundation’s Palm Beach office, he inquired about making a significant donation.

Birthright Israel participants in northern Israel
Birthright Israel participants in northern Israel

Hoffman was very interested in the evaluative research that Birthright Israel takes so seriously, showcasing the impact on participants. Before making his generous donation, he reviewed studies on the program by Brandeis University and was thoroughly impressed. 

“I think Birthright Israel is fabulous – the whole thing. Historically, it is going to be a name no one will forget. And we’re a much better group of people since the program started. The Jewish people are better off for it. We need this in the Jewish religion. If you don’t take advantage of learning opportunities like Birthright Israel, how are you going to fight antisemitism.” 

Hoffman’s grandchildren were fortunate enough to claim their birthright too – making him one of our proud Birthright Israel grandparents. His story and generosity are ones that stem from the values of the Jewish people and lessons our ancestors have passed down to us for generations. We are immensely grateful he is part of our family of donors committed to securing the Jewish future

To learn how you can get involved with Birthright Israel Foundation in Palm Beach contact Carole-Ann Levine, VP, Southeast Region or Diane Scherer, Regional Director, Southeast Region.

Carole-Ann Levine: (561) 820-4849 | carole-ann.levine@birthrightisrael.org

Diane Scherer: (212) 419-2883 | diane.scherer@birthrightisrael.org  

Gene Hoffman also philanthropically supports many institutions throughout the Jewish world. These include a free online Jewish studies program and a student aid initiative at Rutgers University and a scholarship fund at Hebrew Union College. He also gives generously to Seton Hall University and the Sister Rose Thering Class for teachers on Jewish-Christian studies.