Los Angeles, CA (PRWEB) May 19, 2015
On May 14th, 240 leaders from the Los Angeles Pro-Israel Community gathered for a sold-out fundraising gala for Taglit-Birthright Israel at the home of Gila and Adam Milstein, raising more $1.5 million to send young American Jews on fully subsidized trips to Israel. The event – co-sponsored by the Birthright Israel Foundation, the Israeli-American Council (IAC) and the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles — featured a keynote speech from Sheldon Adelson – a renowned Jewish philanthropist and entrepreneur – and remarks from radio talk show host Dennis Prager. Other speakers included Richard Sandler of the Los Angeles Jewish Federation; Miri Belsky, a Taglit-Birthright Israel alumnus and the Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the IAC; Steve Fishman, the Chairman of the Los Angeles Leadership Council; and Gila and Adam Milstein.
Gila Milstein recounted her participation on a Taglit-Birthright Israel donor trip last January. She said, “Sitting together at the Kotel, these young men and women told us how they had discovered a new piece of themselves. They fell in love with their homeland, their people, and their tradition. I got goosebumps as they told me that the trip had inspired them to have Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. As a mother, as a Zionist, and a proud Jew, I was so powerfully moved.”
“I was incredibly proud that we were able to bring together the IAC, the Jewish Federation, and such a wide range group of Pro-Israel and Jewish leaders from across our community under one tent to support Taglit-Birthright Israel,” said Adam Milstein. “Despite heavy rain and a cliff-hanging Clippers playoff game, we doubled the attendance at this event compared to last year, raising critical funds to support a program that has proven uniquely effective in building Jewish identity in our next generation.”
He added, “Through the Milstein Family Foundation’s work on college campuses, I’ve seen firsthand that Taglit-Birthright Israel alumni are among our best Israel advocates. They are critical assets in our fight against the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement (BDS).”
Sheldon Adelson – who has contributed more than $250 million to Taglit-Birthright Israel since 2007 – spoke about the roots of his commitment to the organization. He said, “I came from a very poor family. We were so poor we couldn't even afford poverty. My father is the main reason Miriam and I got involved in Birthright. When Israel was born he said ‘one day I will go,’ but he never had any money. When we finally made some money and tried to send him, it was too late. In 2006 when the organization was in trouble, I thought of my father. We didn't want Jewish kids to grow too old or too sick to visit Israel.”
He added that the Chinese have a proverb: “There are three things you can't take back — the spoken word, a spent hour and yesterday. I would like to add a fourth — the opportunity to save a life. Birthright saves lives, Jewish lives."
At the end of his remarks, Adelson issued a challenge to the audience, saying, “My wife and I will match every dollar that you raise tonight up to $50 million. We want to go from 40,000 kids to 75,000 a year on Birthright. We won't rest until that happens."
A significant percentage of the funds raised at the event were from Israeli-American donors. Several donations were specifically earmarked for the IAC’s new Taglit Shelanu program, which will launch this summer, offering special Taglit-Birthright Israel trips tailored for Israeli-Americans. On these trips, programming will be conducted primarily in Hebrew and Israeli soldiers will be present during the full duration of the ten-day visit to Israel. Six busloads of young Israeli-Americans will participate in Taglit Shelanu this summer, with plans for four additional IAC Taglit Shelanu this winter and 12 trips during the summer of 2016.
The evening was filled with emotional testaments to Taglit-Birthright Israel’s power to change lives. Miri Belsky spoke about how her experience on Taglit-Birthright Israel trip inspired her to pursue a path to Jewish leadership, which included many years working at Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the IAC.
About the Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation: The Milstein Family Foundation works to safeguard and strengthen the Jewish People and the Jewish State by igniting Jewish pride in the next generation, providing pro-Israel Americans with knowledge and expertise to advocate for the State of Israel, and bolstering the critical U.S.- Israel Alliance. Learn more at: http://milsteinff.org/.