Aronson to guide Birthright Israel Foundation

NEW YORK (JTA) – The outgoing leader of one of the country’s largest Jewish federations will head the Birthright Israel Foundation, the foundation announced.

Robert Aronson, who announced this fall that he was stepping down as the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit after 20 years at its helm, will take over as president and CEO of the foundation starting Jan. 1. Aronson will succeed Jay Golan at Birthright.

Birthright, which sends 18- to 26-year-olds on free 10-day educational trips to Israel, is funded in part by the Jewish federation system and the Jewish Agency for Israel, the Israeli government and private philanthropists.

The foundation is responsible for fund raising from private philanthropists, who by far make up the largest portion of Birthright’s budget.

Aronson, who is regarded as one of the top fund-raisers in the federation system, has been serving as the president of the Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life since early this year. He also has been a philanthropic adviser to billionaire Bill Davidson, who recently donated $75 million to Hadassah: The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, putting him in a unique position within both the public and private philanthropy sectors.

“Bob Aronson is the pre-eminent activist in American Jewish philanthropy today,” Birthright Foundation chair Dan Och said in a release Monday announcing his hiring by Birthright. “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.”

Golan will stay on for six months at Birthright as an executive consultant after Aronson starts his tenure.

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