Yesterday, April 30th, Birthright Israel held a formal reception honoring Co-Founder and chairman, Michael Steinhardt, who was chosen to light the torch of the Diaspora on the eve of Independence Day at Mount Herzl.
The event was held at the Hensen House in Jerusalem in the presence of Birthright Israel's business community, Steinhardt's family, associates & friends, and alums and donors, including: Len Rosen, CEO Barclays Israel, Yossi Beilin, Yoram Tietz, Managing Partner at Ernst & Young, MK Roy Folkman, Hagay Elitzur, Senior Director of Diaspora Affairs, Natan Sharansky, Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, Alan Hoffmann Director-General of The Jewish Agency, Prof. Gil Troy, Aviad Freedman, Chairman & CEO of the Israel Association of Community Centers, MK Elazar Stern, Tova Dorfman, Director of the Steinhardt Foundation in Israel, David Gapel, Senior Director of the Schusterman Foundation in Israel and Birthright Israel's International CEO, Gidi Mark, among others.
Michael Steinhardt, co-founder and chairman of Birthright Israel, is a leading and groundbreaking businessman who has devoted the past few decades to philanthropic work, with an emphasis on encouraging diaspora youth and the next generation of Jewish leaders to connect with their Jewish identity and the state of Israel. In addition to founding Birthright Israel, Steinhardt also participated in the establishment of its flagship program- Excel. This program works to build a community of business leaders from both sides of the Atlantic whose common focus is strengthening Israel's economy. The program is widely respected and acknowledged as leading in its field.
This year, Birthright Israel will mark 600,000 participants, including 90,000 Israeli soldiers and students who connected with their Jewish identity and Jerusalem in particular, celebrating 50 years to its reunification. 600,000 is a unique and symbolic figure - representing the number of Jews who lived in the State of Israel upon its establishment.
Michael Steinhardt: "It's hard to believe that at the age of 76 I will think about new ideas for the program and yet it has become an integral part of my life. In my view, Birthright Israel is one of the very few benevolent things that are completely selfless in our world. An experience that strengthens Jewish heritage for so many people. When you see the change in people who return from their trip, you understand its importance and see that it can grow further."
Gidi Mark, Birthright Israel International CEO: "In fact, Michael Steinhardt, together with his founding partners, has connected more young Jews to Israel than anyone else in the 17 years of its existence and has done more than any other Jew in our times, in order to bring the future generation of the Jewish People closer with his roots and origins. Granting the privilege and honor of lighting the torch will be a declaration by the State of Israel that it recognizes and respects the pact it has with the Jewish people in the Diaspora, at a time of apprehension regarding the growing gap between Diaspora Jewry and the center of the Jewish people. The work of Michael Steinhardt is a cornerstone for all those in the Diaspora and Israel alike, who are working to build a common future for the Jewish People the world over."
Photo Silvia Golan