Is birthright Israel in danger? From this tag-team Charles Bronfman/Michael Steinhardt letter in this week’s NY Jewish Week, it seems to be, as the two philanthropists charge the American Jewish community to step up their support of the program. Apparently, 8,000 kids are leaving on birthright trips this winter. But 12,000 more are on the waiting list.
Bronf-n-Stein are not walking away from their roles in creating and funding the project, but with this letter, issued an appeal to American Jewry:
We philanthropic partners will continue to do our part. We did not start this exercise to simply walk away or put it on others at its most critical time. But we cannot do it by ourselves. It is now simply too big. We need you. We want you. Just as our forefathers and foremothers all participated in building the Mishkon, we must participate in building the Jewish future.
Can American Jews save birthright? And ensure Jewish continuity? And stem the tide of future intermarriage while reaching out to those who have already intermarried and are feeling estranged from Judaism and Jewish community? And encourage the creation of innovative Jewish cultural institutions? And support our synagogues and send our kids to Hebrew schools? And provide day school education for every child (as JTS Chancellor Ismar Schorsch suggested two weeks ago)? And make sure that the reforestation of Israel continues through donations to the JNF? And support scientific and medical research? And provide funding that keeps ambulances running and hospital emergency rooms stocked with supplies and staffed with professionals who can help Israeli victims of terror? And support the IDF? And help widows and orphans, the poor and the blind, the uneducated and the unemployed? And help victims of natural disasters, locally and abroad? Heck, once we’ve come this far, why not solve “the shidduch crisis” and create world peace?
Some of America’s Jewish philanthropists do have the money to fund these initiatives. But when it comes to the average Joseph Jew, do our dollars make a difference? How can we support one cause at the expense of another? Is giving time equivalent to giving money, or do Jewish fundraising campaigns prize our coins over our creativity? And how are we ever supposed to feel comfortable with the charity choices that we make?