Sheldon Adelson: Jewish giant, American colossus

Published date13 January 2021
That was Sheldon Adelson: corporate titan, billionaire businessman, world's foremost Jewish philanthropist, but through and through, the warmest man with the biggest heart.

Hearing the news that Sheldon had passed away, even while I knew he had been ill, was shocking. How can a man who was larger than life have been snatched away by death? How could anything have conquered Sheldon Adelson, a living legend?

As the day progressed, I grew increasingly depressed and morose. My wife Debbie summed it up: "I can't believe that we're never going to see Sheldon again."

Neither can I.

Sheldon Adelson was an American colossus, a visionary who transformed Las Vegas and Macau into some of the most visited places on Earth. Together with his wife, Miri, he envisioned the re-creation of the world's most serene city, Venice, right in the sands of the Nevada Desert. He dreamed big for Israel, believing that the United States could and should recognize the tiny desert nation as its most important ally. By the time of his death on Monday at the age of 87, he had realized his dream. Only a Sheldon Adelson could have foreseen Israel rising as a global technological and intelligence superpower, becoming the most indispensable global friend of the United States of America.

And Sheldon was generous, a supernova of Jewish giving, earning his place among history's most legendary Jewish philanthropists such as the Rothschilds and Montefiores.

As a birthday gift, Debbie and I once bought him a silver tzedaka (charity) box. As he opened the gift, he told me that when he was a child his father, a Boston taxi driver, used to come home at night and put coins in the JNF pushke (charity box). Sheldon asked him what he was doing.

"Giving money to the poor," his father replied.

"But we're poor," Sheldon responded."

His father said, "There is always someone poorer."

The lesson stuck. By the time Sheldon's genius and industriousness led him to create the integrated resorts industry – synthesizing entertainment, exhibition and convention facilities – he was giving billions to causes of every stripe: medical research and hospitals, clinics fighting drug addiction, America's wounded warriors, Holocaust education and remembrance, and of course, organizations dedicated to protecting his beloved Israel. To Birthright Israel alone he contributed – together with Miri – nearly half a billion dollars, affording young Jews the world over the privilege his own father did not have the funds to realize, a...

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