Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
News

Steinhardt Ally To Head Birthright

One of the most prominent Jewish organizations has announced that it is replacing its current executive with the ally of one of its signature donors.

The Birthright Israel Foundation, which raises private donations to support free trips to Israel for young Jews, announced that Robert Aronson would assume its helm at the beginning of 2009. Aronson is closely tied to philanthropist Michael Steinhardt, one of Birthright Israel’s founders and one of its most prominent backers.

Aronson will replace current Birthright Israel Foundation CEO Jay Golan, who has led the foundation since it was established in the summer of 2005.

The move comes as Birthright, considered one of the great success stories of the organized Jewish world, grapples with the difficult economy. The organization has declared that its budget will decline from $110 million to $75 million in 2009 and that the number of trips it sponsors will drop from 42,000 to 25,000.

One major reason for the shortfall has been the decision of casino mogul Sheldon Adelson to slash his donation to Birthright from over $30 million in 2008 to $20 million in 2009 and $10 million in 2010, despite declarations he had reportedly made that he would maintain a steady contribution of $30 million per year. Adelson’s announcement came after a year in which his casino company, Las Vegas Sands, has lost billions in its value and reportedly teetered on the brink of bankruptcy. Birthright has also been hurt by a combination of high travel costs within Israel, a comparatively weak American dollar, and cuts in the Israeli government’s contribution to Birthright.

Despite Adelson’s contributions, which dwarf all other donors, Birthright Israel remains closely identified with Steinhardt, who helped launch the program in 1999.

Aronson has represented Steinhardt in negotiations with Birthright as the president of the Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life, a position he will keep. Aronson has also worked with Steinhardt in setting up the Areivim Fund, a fund of $100 million being raised from major donors in $5 million increments to be devoted to Jewish identity-building and education.

Aronson recently announced he would step down as the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, but he remains in charge there, as well, while the federation searches for a replacement.

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.