Over 900 Taglit-Birthright participants celebrated Jewish and Israeli entrepreneurship at “Innovation Nation” Monday evening, getting a chance to hear Jewish-American casino mogul and philanthropist Sheldon Adelson during the Tel Aviv event.
With an estimated worth of $26.1 billion, Adelson is chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corporation and owns the Israeli newspaper Yisrael Hayom. He has donated $140 million to Birthright since 2007.
Prior to the event, he told The Jerusalem Post that his Zionism had influenced his success, which he intends to share through Birthright with upcoming generations of Jews.
“To be a good entrepreneur, you have to be passionate about something,” he said. “You have to have the courage of your own convictions. I have the courage and conviction of a Zionist. That’s how it translates into Birthright.”
Adelson, together with his Israeli wife, Dr. Miriam Adelson, spoke about their private foundation that funds stem cell and other medical research projects. The Boston-based Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Family Foundation sponsors collaboration among 10 universities, including Harvard, UCLA and Stanford.
In speaking to the Post, Adelson said his message to young Jews not already in Israel was to come.
“If they’re between 18 and 26 and they haven’t been on Birthright before, they should come,” he said.
Also in attendance was former Israeli ambassador to the United States Michael Oren. Oren told the Post that “Innovation Nation” was “the essence of the Taglit-Birthright Project. It’s the embodiment of Zionism.”
Nir Zohar, president and COO of the Israeli startup WIX, also addressed the young crowd, and Israeli singer- songwriter Avraham Tal put on a musical performance.
Since 2000, Birthright has brought over 350,000 young Jews from 64 countries to Israel.