Jewish MIT Students Create $100 Bitcoin Giveaway Plan

Every Undergrad Will Get Slice of Digital Currency

Digital Currency: Jeremy Rubin says bitcoin is going to play a bigger role on the MIT campus.
Digital Currency: Jeremy Rubin says bitcoin is going to play a bigger role on the MIT campus.

By Jim Finkle

Published April 30, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share

(Reuters) — Every undergraduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology next fall will be offered $100 in bitcoins in an experiment that students say will turn the prestigious university into one of the first places on the planet with widespread access to digital currency.

Bitcoin is not backed by any government or central bank, a digital currency whose value can swing dramatically based on demand. Users can transfer bitcoins to each other online and store the currency in digital “wallets.”

Jeremy Rubin, a sophomore, and Dan Elitzer, an MBA candidate, raised half a million dollars from alumni and other sources to fund the experiment after coming up with the idea last month. The extra money will go toward infrastructure and education and the offer may eventually be extended to other students beyond undergrads.

“MIT’s campus will become a place where bitcoin is more widely used than anywhere else in the world,” said Elitzer, who is president of the MIT Bitcoin Club.

But not all bitcoin ventures have been a success.

Tokyo-based Mt. Gox, once the world’s biggest bitcoin exchange, filed in February for bankruptcy protection in Japan, saying it may have lost nearly half a billion dollars worth of the virtual coins due to hacking of its computer system.

To avoid such problems, the students have sought help from MIT computer scientists and staff as well as organizations that facilitate digital currency payments.

“We are going to make sure this is done in a secure fashion,” Elitzer told Reuters. “We are making sure we get the right expertise in here.”

The bulk of the funding for the project came from MIT alumni. Alexander Morcos, class of 1997 and co-founder of the New York-based high-frequency trading firm Hudson River Trading LLC, donated about $250,000, the students said.

Rubin said he believed that giving classmates digital currencies was similar to providing Web access in the early days of the Internet.

While anybody can exchange digital currencies from a computer, most bitcoin users are isolated from each other. By issuing bitcoin to every undergrad on campus, Elitzer and Rubin hope it will encourage them to exchange it between each other as well.

“There are virtual communities where it has been common to find bitcoin users, but there has been no physical, geographic location where you can go to and assume that a significant proportion of the population knows what bitcoin is and uses it,” he said.

“You will have a critical mass. The assumption will be that the other person has it,” he said.

It will be an opt-in program, which means that students will not automatically be issued digital wallets, but won’t get any money if they reject the digital currency.

“We’re planning on bitcoin or bust,” Rubin said.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.