Aronson to head Birthright Foundation
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Aronson to head Birthright Foundation

Bob Aronson, the Detroit federation exec-turned-Michael Steinhardt adviser, has been tapped to be the next president of the Birthright Israel Foundation, the entity charged with raising the money for the popular travel program.

Here’s the JTA brief. And here’s the release:

December 1, 2008


The Birthright Israel Foundation, the fundraising arm of the wildly successful program that sends 18-26 year-olds on free 10-day educational trips to Israel, has named Robert Aronson, the long-time Detroit Jewish federation executive, to head the foundation in the coming year.

Aronson, an unparalleled leader in the Jewish philanthropic world, will succeed Jay Golan, the foundation’s executive since its inception, as president of the foundation on January 1. Golan will then continue to be available to the foundation for an additional six months as an executive consultant. The transition is by mutual agreement.

Aronson announced several months ago he was leaving the metropolitan Detroit federation — after serving as its CEO for 20 years – to become a private consultant to Jewish philanthropists and non-profits and to serve as president of the Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life. Called a “visionary” for his forward-looking thinking in the Jewish communal world, Aronson turned the Detroit federation into the third largest in the country.

Dan Och, chair of The Birthright Israel Foundation, praised Jay Golan and thanked him for his service. “We are deeply grateful to Jay for his years of service to Birthright Israel, we wish him the very best and we will miss him.”

“Bob Aronson is the preeminent activist in American Jewish philanthropy today,” Och said of the foundation’s new exec.  “He has been involved with Taglit-Birthright Israel since its inception, has served as its director in the US, and is extraordinarily knowledgeable about the Jewish communal and federation world – an area in which we’d like to enhance our relationships, as we would with Keren Hayesod and the Jewish Agency for Israel, as well as with our alumni and their families. It’s a rare opportunity that we could combine an organization with such a tremendous brand and success rate as Birthright Israel’s, with Bob’s unique – even tailor-made – background.”

The president of The Birthright Israel Foundation’s responsibilities include all advocacy and fundraising in North America for the Birthright Israel program, which has brought almost 200,000 young Jewish adults to Israel since its inception in 1999.

Taglit-Birthright Israel provides the gift of first time, peer group, 10-day educational trips to Israel for Jewish young adults ages 18 to 26. Its founders created this program to send thousands of young Jewish adults from all over the world to Israel as a gift in order to diminish the growing division between Israel and Jewish communities around the world, to strengthen the sense of solidarity among world Jewry, and to strengthen participants’ personal Jewish identity and connection to the Jewish people.

In the nine years since its launch, Taglit-Birthright Israel has established itself as the most successful international Jewish educational program of the last generation.  It is a unique partnership between private philanthropists through The Birthright Israel Foundation, the government of Israel, and Jewish communities around the world.  To learn more, visit

Robert Aronson, 57, served as CEO of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit for 20 years, growing a federation in the 25th largest Jewish community in America to the third largest federation, and increasing its annual fundraising to $34 million this year, up from $27 million in 1989.

Under his direction, the Detroit federation launched initiatives that attracted millions of dollars to endowments established to address community priorities, facility expansions and renovations in the community, including spearheading the financing of expanded and revitalized facilities and programs in health, education and housing throughout the Jewish community.

Over the past two decades, the federation’s endowment has quadrupled from $100 million 1989 to $400 million in 2008.

In addition to his work with Taglit-Birthright Israel and the metropolitan Detroit federation, Aronson helped to establish The Areivim Philanthropic Group, a $100 million fund for transformative Jewish education projects, built through individual donations of $5 million from various major donors.

Before moving to suburban Detroit, Aronson served as executive vice president of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, where he was also campaign director.  He simultaneously served as director of campaign planning services for the Council of Jewish Federations.

He is also an Associate Member of the Jewish Agency for Israel’s Board of Governors.

Robert Aronson holds a masters degree from the Wurzweiler School of Social Work at Yeshiva University.  He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of Michigan School of Social Work.