When I was managing editor at JTA (1999-2001) I covered the birth of Birthright Israel and other issues involving younger Jews searching for connection to Judaism. That’s why I asked Publishers Weekly if I could interview Michael Steinhardt on his book, Jewish Pride, which outlines the Birthright founder’s search for a formula to battle antisemitism and assimilation by funding programs that contribute to Jewish pride.
More than 25 years ago, Wall Street mogul Michael Steinhardt took a look around at his fellow American Jews and the institutions that supported them and did not like what he saw. To him, synagogues and religious schools failed to instill a sense of pride in young Jews.
That’s when Steinhardt made a decision that would have ripple effects across the Jewish world for the next quarter-century and beyond.
“On December 31, 1995, I retired and closed down my firm,” Steinhardt writes in his book, Jewish Pride (Post Hill, Sept. 13). “My career as a manager of other people’s money was over. From that day forward, I would dedicate not just my capital but also my time and creative energy to solving the problem that lurked beneath everything I felt had gone wrong with American Jewry.”