L.A. federation and Adelson’s Birthright match

The Jewish Federation of Los Angeles took advantage of Sheldon Adelson’s matching grant program, which expires at midnight on New Year’s Eve, to help shorten the waiting list for prospective Birthright Israel participants in the Los Angeles area.

The Adelson Family Foundation has been offering a two-to-one matching grant for any new money given to Birthright over the past two years.

The L.A. federation announced Wednesday — Dec. 30 — that it would give $700,000 more to Birthright this year than it gave to the program the previous year, garnering an additional $1.4 million from Adelson.

Some 1,900 people from Los Angeles applied for winter Birthright trips, and 1,200 were denied. The new funds will give Los Angeles 700 supplemental spots on trips this coming summer and next winter.

"This is just the beginning for us," said Jay Sanderson, incoming president of the L.A. federation. "We want to make sure that every young person in Los Angeles who wants to have a Birthright Israel experience gets to go. This is a strong statement from the new leadership of the federation that we are going to be a leader, not just locally, but nationally."

In a similar buy-down this month, the Birthright Israel Foundation received a gift of $40,000 — also eligible for the Adelson match — earmarked for eliminating the 40-person waitlist at Cornell University’s Hillel. The 40 students will travel with Birthright Israel in March 2010.

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