March 18, 2013

Michael Steinhardt Focuses on Measurement to Prove Philanthropic Success

To verify that Taglit-Birthright Israel was having the desired impact, Michael Steinhardt brought in outside researchers.

By: The Bridgespan Group
Michael-Steinhardt_198x135.jpgIn the mid-1990s, Michael Steinhardt retired from his successful hedge fund company, Steinhardt Partners L.P., to devote himself to causes of the Jewish world. One cause that deeply concerned him: Jewish culture and religion seemed to be on the decline, largely because young people living outside of Israel had lost their connection to their Jewish identity. After a visit to Israel, he brainstormed what he could do to reverse this trend. The result was Taglit-Birthright Israel, which sponsors 10-day trips for young Jewish people, and which Steinhardt co-founded with Charles Bronfman.

Since the organization was founded in 1999, it has sent more than 330,000 Jewish young adults from around the world on these educational trips. And lest some think that Taglit-Birthright Israel offers little more than a free vacation, research backs up the program's profound effects on Jewish identify.
  Steinhardt, a firm believer in the obligation of philanthropists to tell the world what they’ve accomplished, hasn’t left the results of this initiative to speculation. In fact, Steinhardt himself was skeptical of the reports he heard from attendees that the trip had changed their lives. Not willing to rely solely on anecdotal evidence, Steinhardt brought in outside researchers to conduct surveys on two groups of young Jews: a group of Birthright Israel attendees and a second group consisting of those who were on the waiting list, but who never went on the trip. Their answers revealed remarkable differences in the two groups’ interest in and observance of Jewish culture. Birthright attendees were almost twice as likely to have married within the Jewish faith as those who didn’t attend. Furthermore, those who went on a Birthright Israel heritage trip were 30% more likely to indicate that raising their children Jewish is very important. Even Steinhardt was surprised by the impact Birthright Israel had on participants’ views of these two critical aspects of Jewish life. Yet, Taglit-Birthright Israel is just one of many ways Steinhardt has worked to change the Jewish world.

To see the complete archive of Michael Steinhardt videos, see here.

"When I tasted a number of things after I retired, I decided that [what] I could do...was to devote myself to the Jewish future, which is what I have done and which you might call my philanthropy," he says. No doubt many in the Jewish community are glad of that focus.

Michael Steinhardt's Key Messages for Other Donors

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