It is hard to believe that a year has passed since we lost Sheldon (z’l).  As we observe the yahrzeit (anniversary) of his death, while we are saddened by his absence, we must celebrate his life and the impact he has had on the Jewish people and the State of Israel. Nothing would make Sheldon Adelson prouder than watching the next generation feel confident in their Jewish identity and stand up for Israel and the Jewish people.

Although the past year was different due to the pandemic, through his generosity, 6,000 young Jews were still able to visit our homeland through the life-changing gift of Birthright Israel. His legacy will live on in each of them as they build a stronger Jewish future for us all.

Today is a sad day for the Jewish people, the State of Israel and Birthright Israel for we have lost our dear friend and most generous supporter, Sheldon Adelson (z”l).  There are few people in this world who can compare to Sheldon and his wife, Dr. Miriam Adelson, when it comes to their generosity and dedication to our people and our homeland.  

I had the honor of knowing Sheldon for more than thirty years, well before I joined Birthright Israel Foundation as President & CEO. I have always admired his love of Judaism, Israel and his beloved wife, Miri. The two served as a power couple, a pair who strived to make a difference in the world. 

Supporters of Birthright Israel since 2006, the Adelsons have contributed nearly half a billion dollars to our organization, allowing us to send more than 800,000 participants.  Take a moment and think about that number.  That is nearly an entire generation who can now say they are proud Jews who are connected to the State of Israel.  

Sheldon often shared the story of his father, who was never able to visit Israel. He and Miri were determined to make sure no other young Jewish adult ever missed out on the opportunity to visit the Promised Land.  When Sheldon and Miri learned there was a waiting list for the program, at times twice as many applicants as spots available, they immediately increased their support to make sure every single applicant was able to receive this gift.   

With each visit to Israel, Sheldon and Miri met more and more Birthright Israel participants and saw the incredible impact the program was having on them. They knew that it was not just a gift to the participants but to the Jewish community as a whole.  With that in mind, the Adelsons created their first matching gift challenge in 2011 to encourage members of the Jewish community to join them in providing this gift.  This match has allowed Birthright Israel Foundation to increase our support and number of donors.  

Miri and Sheldon could have had their names on many buildings but instead their names are engraved on the hearts and minds of all those young Jews who went on Birthright Israel and discovered who they are and what they are a part of. Through their generous giving they have laid the cornerstone for a stronger Jewish foundation.  

In 2018, we honored the Adelsons at our gala and presented them with the “Guardians of the Jewish Future” award. We know our future will be a bright one thanks to their love and support. 

May Sheldon’s memory serve as a blessing to the Jewish people and may his family be comforted by the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.  His legacy will forever live on in our hearts. 

This post was originally published on January 12, 2021.