World briefs: Philanthropists call on Jewish community to increase investment in Birthright and more


Philanthropists call on Jewish community to increase investment in Birthright
Following an announcement that budget cuts will cause Birthright Israel to cut up to one-third of its trip participants in 2023 and beyond, the leading philanthropic supporters of the program on Nov. 29 called upon Jews and Jewish organizations worldwide to become “fellow investors” in the organization that provides free 10-day trips to Israel for Jewish young adults, reported JNS.

The first Birthright Israel group after a year-long absence due to the coronavirus epidemic, May 24, 2021. (Photo by Erez Uzir/JNS)

“We are creating space for others to commit, to re-commit or to increase their commitment. Birthright is not an Adelson family investment. It is an investment in us all, in our collective, communal future,” said Dr. Miriam Adelson, who along with her late husband Sheldon Adelson via the Adelson Family Foundation has contributed nearly $500 million to Birthright in the past 15 years.

Adelson, along with major donor Charles Bronfman, addressed the Birthright Israel Foundation’s board meeting via video conference after Birthright recently proclaimed that due to inflation and rising travel expenses, the per-person cost of the experience has increased to $4,500.

The organization is “now seeking contributions from the wider American-Jewish community to maintain the organization’s provision of the critical program.”

American Jews who attend Birthright trips are 160% more likely to have a spouse who is Jewish, according to a recently published analysis by the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University.

Jewish passengers booted off Lufthansa flight in May getting $20,000 payouts
Nearly seven months after they were denied boarding in Frankfurt, a group of more than 100 Chasidic Lufthansa passengers are getting paid for their troubles, reported JTA.

The airline is paying each passenger $20,000, plus $1,000 to reimburse them for expenses incurred during the May incident, according to Dan’s Deals, the discount travel website that first reported the incident at the time. After legal fees and some other expenses, each passenger will net approximately $17,400, the site is reporting.

Lufthansa would not confirm the dollar figures but said that it is seeking to settle with each of the affected passengers, capping a series of conciliatory responses to the incident.

On May 4, airline agents in Frankfurt barred many Jewish travelers coming from New York City from boarding their connecting flight to Budapest, citing the fact that some of the passengers were not wearing masks, as was required at the time.

But that rule was applied inconsistently, passengers said at the time, and a Lufthansa supervisor was caught on video speaking disparagingly about Jews as a group.

Global Index: Tel Aviv drops from first to third-most expensive city
Tel Aviv is no longer the most expensive city in the world, dropping from first place last year to third in the 2022 Worldwide Cost of Living Index, released on Nov. 30 by the Economist Intelligence Unit, reported JNS.

Singapore and New York City shared the top spot, with Hong Kong and Los Angeles tying for fourth place. Zurich, Geneva, San Francisco, Paris and Copenhagen placed five through 10 in the ranking, in that order.

The index is compiled by comparing prices in U.S. dollars for goods and services in 172 major cities around the world, with data showing that average cost of living in those places jumping by 8.1% compared to 2021.

“The war in Ukraine, Western sanctions on Russia and China’s zero-COVID policies have caused supply-chain problems that, combined with rising interest rates and exchange-rate shifts, have resulted in a cost-of-living crisis across the world,” said Upasana Dutt, head of worldwide cost of living at EIU, in a statement.

Loan company SoFi pulls ad after criticism that it features anti-semitic stereotype
An ad for a student-loan refinancing company was pulled after complaints that it features a stereotypical dishonest Jewish banker, reported JTA.

In the ad for the company SoFi, a young couple is harassed by a schlubby, balding middle-aged man who dumps out the contents of the woman’s purse searching for change, then kisses and pockets a stack of dollar bills.

Later, the man — who is wearing glasses, a gold watch and a tweed jacket — is shown hoarding their dinner at a restaurant, stealing their blankets in bed and using their sink to brush his teeth.

“I know what it says to [a] non-Jew like me,” said Rhonda Moore, a real estate appraiser in Ottawa, Canada, told JTA. “It says to me: ‘Refinance with us and don’t let Jews steal your money.’ ”

That wasn’t what the ad’s creators intended: They said the character was meant to fit the archetype of a professor. But following a JTA inquiry inspired by Moore’s questions, the company said last week that it would pull the commercial.

“Out of an abundance of caution, given the current rise in antisemitism, we are working to take down this advertisement as quickly as possible,” SoFi said in a statement.

The ad was produced by the company’s in-house creative team and had been running since late October.

— Compiled by Andy Gotlieb

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