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Miriam Adelson slashed her philanthropy as casinos closed due to Covid. Now, her business empire is recuperating

(JTA) – The casino company controlled by Jewish megadonor Miriam Adelson is paying its shareholders dividends again, potentially paving the way to a rebound for the family’s foundation. 

The Adelson Family Foundation — founded by Adelson and her late husband, Sheldon Adelson — has been a prolific giver to Jewish organizations, including Birthright Israel. The couple was also active in politics, supporting Republican campaigns. But after the casino industry flat-lined early in the pandemic, Adelson donations to charitable and political causes declined. 

Assets held in the family’s charitable trust dropped from more than $200 million before the pandemic to $37 million in 2021 as it distributed money to the foundation and other causes without being replenished, according to records filed with the IRS. 

The foundation’s grantmaking dropped to $80 million in 2021 from $100 million the year before and $117 million in 2019, according to IRS records. The foundation had only about $6 million in reserves at the end of 2021. More recent numbers are not yet available. 

The dip in giving has had a significant impact. The Birthright program, for example, saw its funding from the Adelson Family Foundation cut by half in each of the past two years, with a corresponding drop in free trips for young Jews to Israel. 

Now, Adelson’s business prospects appear to be improving. Her Las Vegas Sands Corp. announced that it would pay dividends to shareholders for the first time in more than three years as the company begins to recover from the pandemic-related downturn in global travel and hospitality. Adelson’s own personal payout is expected to be about $87 million for the quarter, a substantial sum but still a fraction of what she and her husband were regularly collecting before the pandemic. 

It’s unknown whether or when the cash infusion will spell a restoration of funding for the various organizations that have seen a drop in support from Adelson over a period of several years, which has included Sheldon Adelson’s death at 87 more than two years ago. Adelson’s representatives said she is not giving interviews at the moment; Michael Bohnen, president of the Adelson Family Foundation, declined to comment.

The list of organizations that have been buoyed by Adelson’s support is long and varied. It includes right-wing advocacy groups like the Maccabee Task Force Foundation, which operates on college campuses; the Israeli-American Council and Zionist Organization of America; U.S. fundraising groups benefiting the Israeli military; the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum and memorial in Jerusalem; and the Adelson Family Campus, a large Jewish day school in Las Vegas, where Adelson lives.

Jonathan Sarna, a professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University, said he is confident in the Adelson family’s commitment to the charities it has supported. “The Adelson family has played a pivotal role in Birthright Israel and in the organization of the large community of Israelis in the U.S. through IAC,” he said. “They have also contributed to countless other Jewish philanthropic endeavors, including Jewish day schools and the Jewish community of Las Vegas. I have no doubt that the family will continue its tradition of philanthropic generosity.”

Andrés Spokoiny, president and CEO of the Jewish Funders Network, said the Jewish philanthropic world doesn’t rise or fall because of any one donor, even a philanthropist as prolific as Adelson. “The funding landscape is diverse and there is no sense of dependence on a single donor,” he said.

The Adelson name is also big in Republican politics: The couple broke a record for the most donations in an election cycle in 2020, with almost $173 million in campaign contributions. But the 2022 midterm election saw the newly widowed Adelson give only a fraction of that, with no contribution at all to the Republican Jewish Coalition, whose top patron became WhatsApp founder Jan Koum, who gave a $1.35 million donation to RJC’s Super PAC. 

The reinstatement of dividends was made possible by increased visitation to Sands casinos in Macao and Singapore in recent months, which generated revenues of $2.5 billion for the second quarter, double what they were a year ago. Executives at the company said business still hasn’t returned to pre-pandemic levels, suggesting room for further growth.

“In Macao, we were pleased to see the ongoing recovery now underway in all gaming and nongaming segments progress during the quarter,” Sands Chairman and CEO Rob Goldstein said during a conference call on July 19 with investors. “We remain deeply enthusiastic about the opportunity to continue our investments to enhance Macao’s tourism appeal to travelers from throughout the region, including to foreign visitors to Macao.”

As a result of Sands’ profitability, the company is paying shareholders a dividend of 20 cents per share. Adelson’s roughly 57% stake is valued at more than $35 billion, placing her among the 40 richest people in the world according to Forbes.  

Under Miriam Adelson, Sands has been lobbying to legalize gambling in Texas and is pursuing a bid for one of three licenses to operate a casino in New York. 

Sheldon Adelson, who founded Las Vegas Sands and served as its CEO as it grew into an international gambling and resort empire, died in January 2021, living long enough to see Sands revenues plummet because of Covid-related lockdowns. The following year, the company, now controlled solely by Miriam, sold its marquee Las Vegas properties, The Venetian and the Sands Expo and Convention Center, for $6.5 billion in a bet on its Asian casinos and resorts

It’s not the first time the Adelson empire has faced and recovered from economic headwinds. Adelson had begun expanding in Asia ahead of the 2008 financial crisis, borrowing heavily to finance the construction of new casinos and hotels. The company had lost billions as a result of the timing and the Adelsons paused much of their giving for a few years. 

Whether Miriam Adelson desires to shift philanthropic priorities following the death of her husband remains unknown. The 77-year-old, an immigrant to the United States from Israel and a naturalized American citizen, earlier this year criticized the judicial reform being pursued by the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which was notable because of the Adelsons’ long-standing support for Netanyahu. 

Compared to her husband, Miriam has kept out of the public spotlight, with a significant exception in 2018, when Donald Trump awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s top civilian honor. A profile of her in the Guardian shortly afterward suggested that she had been far more influential in the couple’s activities than many realized. 

“Everybody says it’s Sheldon, but it’s Miriam,” Michael Cherry, a board member of the Las Vegas addiction recovery clinic that the Adelsons founded, was quoted as saying. 

Together with her husband, Miriam was the largest donor to Trump’s 2016 presidential bid. But she has not yet announced support for Trump this time around as he seeks to win the Republican nomination and get reelected in 2024. Earlier this year, Trump’s rival, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, was reportedly courting Adelson and other Jewish conservative donors. DeSantis and Adelson were seen seated together at a dinner in Jerusalem. But Adelson has reportedly said that she does not plan to make an endorsement in the primary.

The post Miriam Adelson slashed her philanthropy as casinos closed due to Covid. Now, her business empire is recuperating appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Model Bella Hadid Wears Keffiyeh Dress in Cannes in Support of ‘Free Palestine Forever’

Bella Hadid attends the red carpet of the film ”L’Amour ouf” (Beating Hearts) at the 77th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France, on May 23, 2024. Photo: Daniele Cifalà via Reuters Connect

Model Bella Hadid used fashion to make a political statement at the Cannes Film Festival on Thursday by wearing a dress made from a keffiyeh, a headscarf traditionally worn by Palestinians that has become a symbol of solidarity with the Palestinian cause and opposition to Israel.

In between premieres at the film festival, the model and fragrance designer walked the streets in Cannes, France, sporting a vintage Michael and Hushi “keffiyeh dress” from 2001 that was made from red and white keffiyehs. “I made [the dress] out of the keffiyeh fabric, which I still have nightmares about, as it wasn’t easy,” designer Hushidar Mortezaie was quoted as saying. Michael and Hushi also designed a black and white keffiyeh halter top worn by Sarah Jessica Parker’s character Carrie Bradshaw in a season four episode of Sex and the City.

Hadid shared the meaning behind her outfit in a post that she uploaded late Thursday on her Instagram Story. She reposted an image of the original 2001 design, tagged the designers, and wrote in the caption, “Free Palestine forever.” She included an emoji of the Palestinian flag.

bella hadid’s wearing a vintage keffiyeh dress in cannes by michael and hushi

— ✭ (@badestoutfit) May 23, 2024

Since the start of the Israel-Hamas war — which began after Hamas-led terrorists took around 250 Israeli and foreign hostages and killed 1,200 people in southern Israel on Oct. 7 — Hadid has repeatedly expressed solidarity with Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. In a lengthy statement shared on Instagram in late October, she condemned the Hamas attacks, and said she stands in solidarity with “Palestine” and the “innocent Palestinian civilians” affected by the war.

“I believe deep in my heart that no child, no people anywhere, should be taken away from their family either temporarily or indefinitely. That goes for Israeli or Palestinian people alike,” she added. She also called for humanitarian aid to help “the urgent needs of the people of Gaza.”

During the Israel-Hamas conflict in 2021, Hadid participated in a pro-Palestinian rally where she chanted “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” which has been widely interpreted as a call for the destruction of the Jewish state and for it to be replaced with a Palestinian state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. She has previously accused Israel of “colonization, ethnic cleansing, military occupation, and apartheid over the Palestinian people.”

Hadid’s father, Nazareth-born real estate developer Mohamed Hadid, recently criticized and sent racist messages to US Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) for supporting Israel. He has also accused Israel of occupation, colonialism, genocide, and apartheid. In March, he commented on the support US President Joe Biden has expressed for Israel after the Oct. 7 attacks, saying, “He will be in court with the rest of the Zionist criminals. We will hunt them down like they did the Nazis.” He also called Biden the “head of the Zionist project.”

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US House Speaker Confirms Netanyahu to Address Congress Soon

US Speaker of the House Mike Johnson stands in the House of Representatives ahead of US President Joe Biden’s third State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in the US Capitol in Washington, DC, March 7, 2024. Photo: Shawn Thew/Pool via REUTERS

US House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) has confirmed that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will deliver a speech to a joint session of the US Congress in the coming days.

Johnson gave a keynote address at the Embassy of Israel in Washington, DC on Thursday evening as part of a yearly Israeli Independence Day event. The Republican leader told the crowd that he is “happy to announce” that Congress will “soon be hosting Prime Minister Netanyahu.”

The crowd cheered Johnson’s announcement that a visit by the Israeli premier is in the works. 

He added that hearing an address by Netanyahu would be “a strong show of support for the Israeli government in their time of greatest need.”

Johnson bemoaned that support for Israel seems to be fading among some progressive politicians and suggested that Hamas, the Palestinian terror group that launched the war in Gaza with its Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel, has even “recruited apologists” among certain members of Congress.

The House speaker also took shots at US President Joe Biden, claiming that he has withheld “vital weapons” from the Jewish state. 

“Some leaders who have been previously proud to stand with Israel, and even some who have made statements of solidarity following Oct. 7, have suddenly begun to backpedal on that support,” Johnson said. 

Biden publicly announced earlier this month that his administration would no longer deliver shipments of offensive arms to Israel if the country were to embark on a major military operation in the city of Rafah, a step that many experts consider necessary to dismantle Hamas. Several of Israel’s allies condemned Biden’s decision to condition arms shipments to the Jewish state and argued that the president abandoned a close ally of the United States. 

Johnson also rebuked the decision of the International Criminal Court prosecutor’s office to seek an arrest warrant for Netanyahu, claiming that the organization “likened Israel’s just war to the barbarism of Oct. 7th.” He promised that the United States would not “acknowledge or abide by” the court’s mandates. 

US Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA) delivered his own keynote address at the Israeli embassy on Thursday night, reaffirming America’s “commitment to Israel’s sovereignty.”

Johnson’s invitation to Netanyahu comes amid increasing tensions between liberal members of Congress and the Biden administration over Israel’s military campaign in Gaza. Some Democrats have suggested that Israel is committing “genocide” and demanded that Israel agree to a ceasefire with Hamas, signalling a growing rift between more progressive politicians in the Democratic Party and one of America’s closest allies.

Moreover, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has faced significant pressure by members of his own party not to join Johnson’s invitation for Netanyahu to address Congress. Progressive Democrats such as Maxwell Frost (D-FL), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), and Bernie Sanders (D-VT) have all vowed not to attend a congressional address by Netanyahu.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) on Wednesday dismissed the notion of a growing rift between Democrats over Israel as “nothing but puppies and rainbows.”

“The Republicans have repeatedly tried to make Israel a partisan political issue and divide Democrats, and they have failed,” Jeffries said.

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New Program Offers NYC 8th Graders Free School Trips to Holocaust Museum to Learn About Antisemitism

Aerial view of the Museum of Jewish Heritage, New York City. Photo: Gryffindor/Wikimedia.

All eight graders from public and charter schools in New York City will be offered free field trips to visit the Museum of Jewish Heritage — A Living Memorial to the Holocaust and learn about antisemitism as part of a new initiative announced on Thursday.

The Holocaust Education School Tours program will begin in the fall and be offered free of charge to more than 85,000 students in public and charter schools over the next three years. Specially trained museum educators will guide student groups through the museum’s exhibitions, and work with schools to schedule tours and to provide free transportation. The museum will also hire additional education staff to help with the program.

The museum said the field trips “will provide critical education about the global history of antisemitism and propaganda, factors that precipitated the Holocaust, while fostering opportunities for students to reflect on the relevance of historical events to contemporary issues.” New York is one of almost two dozen states where Holocaust education is required and educators have noted that the eighth and tenth grades are prime stages in a student’s development to introduce Holocaust education, according to the museum.

The program was spearheaded by Julie Menin, a Jewish city councilwoman from Manhattan and a member of the council’s Jewish Caucus. Menin’s mother and grandmother survived the Holocaust in Hungary. She suggested the idea for the field trips following the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks on Israel, after realizing the urgent need to educate younger generations about the Holocaust and antisemitism.

New York City Public Schools Chancellor David C. Banks said there have been 281 incidents of religious bias in city schools since the Oct. 7 attacks and 42 percent of them have involved antisemitism.

“We must take decisive action as we witness the alarming surge in antisemitic incidents in our city and across our country,” Menin said. “We needed a proactive approach to combat this hatred at its roots. This initiative, born out of personal conviction and a deep sense of responsibility, aims to ensure that every young mind comprehends the history of the Holocaust and the dangers of antisemitism. My hope is that through education and reflection, we can inoculate future generations against the horrors of the past.”

The new program is part of a $2.5 million Holocaust education initiative that has received $1 million in funding from the Gray Foundation, which is co-founded by Jon Gray, the president of the investment firm Blackstone. The Gray Foundation has supported the Museum of Jewish Heritage since 2016.

The Museum of Jewish Heritage previously created an “educator antisemitism resource,” to help teachers address questions about antisemitism, and is working with the New York City Department of Education to develop a new Holocaust teaching guide for teachers that will be released in the fall. The 2024-25 New York state budget allocated $500,000 for the review and update of Holocaust curricula in schools.

“As we witness a troubling resurgence of Holocaust denial and antisemitism around the world, it has never been more critical to ensure that younger generations are equipped with the knowledge and understanding of the Holocaust,” said Jack Kliger, president and CEO of the Museum of Jewish Heritage. “By educating our youth about the horrors of the past, we strive to instill in them a sense of empathy, tolerance, and the resolve to prevent such atrocities from ever happening again.”

Bruce Ratner, chairman of the board of trustees at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, said that by giving eighth graders in New York City more access to Holocaust education “we are taking a proactive stance against ignorance and prejudice.”

“We believe that by understanding the consequences of hate, our youth can help build a future rooted in compassion, respect, and the steadfast commitment to never let history repeat itself,” he added.

The Museum of Jewish Heritage opened in October 2023 its first exhibition designed for visitors aged 9 and up titled “Courage to Act: Rescue in Denmark,” which highlights how Denmark’s ordinary citizens united to save nearly 95 percent of the country’s Jewish population during the Holocaust.

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