Stephen Grand believed in Birthright Israel so much that he wanted to ensure its success and impact would live on after his lifetime. Stephen bequeathed $5 million to Birthright Israel Foundation, leaving his mark on the Jewish people, the State of Israel, and Birthright Israel, forever.

Stephen spent significant time and resources dedicated to causes that strengthened Israel and the Jewish future. His generosity to Birthright Israel Foundation underwrote the trips of over 3,600 young adults in the Bay Area. Stephen’s close friend Doug Herst described him as “simply a mensch with a huge heart,” and it was his huge heart that impacted the hearts of thousands of young Jews throughout his lifetime.

He believed deeply that the seeds of Jewish citizenship, belonging, and responsibility are planted by giving young adults opportunities to build their own relationships with the land and people of Israel. He called Birthright Israel the “gold standard” to accomplish just that. He understood that immersive education in Israel was a crucial stepping stone in the journey of one’s commitment to Jewish life. Stephen himself set this standard for investing in the future of Israel by prioritizing Birthright Israel as a philanthropic priority, both during and after his lifetime. He viewed himself as passing a baton to a new generation, whom he trusted to one day take his place as the guarantors of Birthright Israel.

Birthright Israel and the young adults whose lives would be impacted meant the world to Stephen and he dedicated a significant amount of time to building awareness and support for the program in the Bay Area, serving on its Ambassador Council, and as the host of many fundraisers over the years with his wife Nancy. Stephen ensured that events were always on-point, candid, vibrant, and focused on alumni.

How His Love of Israel Began

In a speech Stephen delivered upon receiving an honorary doctorate from Technion, he spoke about his parents’ love for Israel and how it held a special place in their hearts. Throughout his childhood, Stephen witnessed their continued generosity and philanthropy to Jewish and Israeli causes — which set the stage for building his own legacy as a mega-philanthropist.

When Stephen decided to travel Europe as a young adult, he began his journey in Israel, something that made his father happy. Within hours of landing at Ben Gurion Airport and making his way to the beach in Tel Aviv, Stephen was smitten. Being in Israel as an independent, swashbuckling young man shifted his perspective, and soon his love affair with the land began. Stephen’s visit turned into a year abroad, and he studied and worked in Tel Aviv. The experience left an indelible mark, which Stephen carried in his heart and into his philanthropy.

Why Stephen Invested in Birthright Israel

When Stephen was introduced to Birthright Israel Foundation in 2006, it was almost an immediate philanthropic match. “He loved Israel and everything it stood for. What thrilled him most was that these young Jews would experience the same rush he did when he first landed as a twenty-something in Israel himself… It simply made him proud and happy knowing that these young American Jews — and young Jews around the world — would get to see Israel,” said Nancy.

However, at the time the Grands were introduced to Birthright Israel, there was a waitlist for trips, and the Grands saw this as a challenge they were ready to take on. Nancy told us that they tried to give enough money to dissolve the waitlist in the Bay Area and in Detroit.

Fortunately for young adults waiting to claim their birthright, Stephen and Nancy stepped up to the plate with a first-time gift of $5 million dollars. However, this was only the beginning of the Grands’ dedication to Birthright Israel and young Jews everywhere. Nancy and Stephen co-chaired Birthright Israel Foundation’s 2015 fall fundraiser, titled “Why We Give,” in the Bay Area with Ben Abram, and the call to support from the community slowly increased. In the years to follow, Nancy and Stephen put their hearts into the program and continued to give.

Today, the Grands’ total support to Birthright Israel Foundation is over eleven million dollars, making it possible for thousands upon thousands of young adults to consider Jewish life from informed perspectives — where belonging does not mean conforming, where unity does not mean uniformity, and where standing up for Israel does not mean selling out. These values, alongside the strategic importance of building people-to-people bonds between Diaspora Jews and their peers, were priceless for Stephen.

What Others Say About Stephen’s Life & Legacy

“He admired Birthright Israel because of its importance in history, its success in inspiring a generation of young people, and its leadership. He liked visionary, transformative strategies that delivered results, and Birthright Israel was all of that. He wanted the participants to forge their Jewish identities from a position of knowledge and inspiration, and then build Jewish homes and communities around the world. From his own life, Steve understood that time in Israel was a key educational experience.”
Doug Herst
Close Friend & Fellow Birthright Israel Foundation Donor

“Stephen’s giving started with Ahavat Yisrael, love of the Jewish people. He respected Birthright Israel for its educational approach, which transcends any moment in time, any political perspective, any religious affiliation. Through the lens of his own experiences as a young adult, Stephen saw the intrinsic value of taking young people to Israel. He had a clear understanding of Birthright Israel as a vital program that needed to flourish past his lifetime.”
Rabbi Brian Lurie
Fellow Birthright Israel Foundation Donor & Northwest Ambassador Council Member

“For Stephen, writing Birthright Israel Foundation into his estate plan wasn’t an abstract ‘legacy.’ Stephen made a sacred bequest that expressed his values and vision at the peak of his health and wisdom. He planned an investment that will build the Jewish People far beyond his lifetime. He followed his heart and wanted to inspire other donors to follow his lead. Stephen’s true legacy is his good name.”
P.J. Cherrin
Associate VP, Northwest Region, Birthright Israel Foundation

Ensure Jewish Continuity Through a Planned Gift 

The philanthropic legacy of Stephen Grand will forever impact the hearts of Birthright Israel participants, and we hope it will inspire his fellow donors everywhere. If you, like Stephen, want the next generation to make Israel and all its contributions to our world a priority, invest in Birthright Israel Foundation. Gift Planning offers you the opportunity to use financial, estate, investment, and philanthropic options to help meet your current philanthropic goals and extend your generosity well into the future.  

Join the ranks of supporters who have committed to ensuring the long-term sustainability of Birthright Israel. The Foundation offers several planned giving opportunities through a variety of financial vehicles—from direct bequests and retirement account distributions to specialized endowment funds and the Birthright Israel Charitable Gift Annuity.