I have visited Yad Vashem at least twice and been deeply moved each time. I am a long-time donor to the American Society for Yad Vashem to help support that vital institution. When I opened my invitation to their annual dinner my stomach turned to see at the top of the list of general chairmen of the society the name Sheldon Adelson. Unlike the other chairs, he is neither a survivor, child of a survivor, or a leader in Holocaust causes. How does he get to join this venerable list? By being a billionaire.
There is nothing inherently wrong with being extremely rich. I have never heard any objections to the generosity of Baron Rothschild, Baron Moses Montefiore, Edgar Bronfman, or Ronald Lauder. But allowing one individual a great deal of influence is dangerous. Mr. Adelson is frighteningly different from these other philanthropists. A Democrat most of his life, he suddenly switched to being a Republican right after becoming a billionaire. He choose that affiliation solely to persuade politicians to promote legislation that would protect his financial interests. He then proceeded to promote politicians all over the United States, including here in Bergen County, and in Israel who would advance his views on all manner of other issues. In the spring he gave Newt Gingrich $10 million to say that Romney was totally unqualified to be president. After it was clear that Romney would win the nomination, Adelson spent $100 million to back him. Just before becoming a billionaire, he defrauded his own children out of shares in his company. His sons sued him, but he outlasted them through his vast wealth. He seems to have no interests but his own and no conscience. He uses the power of vast wealth to buy influence. He has bought a leadership role in the Republican Jewish Coalition, was instrumental in having Romney organize a fundraiser in Israel (a foreign country), has entrÃ©e to any Republican official up to president, and influences the content of what thousands of young Jews are taught (or as Natan Sharansky said in Tenafly, brainwashed) by Birthright.
My parents were Holocaust survivors, as were two pairs of my uncles and aunts. My grandparents, two of my father’s siblings, and almost all of my parents’ wider families were murdered in the Holocaust. My parents lost a daughter in the Holocaust. For my first three years I was raised in the Bergen-Belsen DP camp. I have spent more than 20 years of my life devoted to Holocaust causes. I continue to establish my bona fides. I was on an advisory committee to the U.S. Holocaust Council, I helped organize second generation events for the Survivor Gatherings in Israel and in the States, I helped organize second generation conferences in New York and New Jersey, I returned to Bergen-Belsen to protest Reagan’s trip to Bitburg, and I was chairman of the Holocaust Committee of the Jewish Federation in Wayne. I am now a member of the Teaneck Holocaust Commemoration Committee.
I am revolted by the idea that Mr. Adelson has bought his way on to being a chairman of the American Society for Yad Vashem. My dead family members would be turning in their graves. He represents the opposite of all the values they held dear.
Please write to the society at 500 Fifth Ave., 42nd Floor, New York, NY 10110-4299 to express your objections to Mr. Adelson being so inappropriately honored. I personally will stop contributing to the society until they disaffiliate themselves from him.