Culture, Identity, Justice, Politics

Jewish money and power up close: Sheldon Adelson

Sheldon Adelson profiled in The New YorkerProfiled in all his ugliness in The New Yorker this week: Billionaire Sheldon Adelson is the third richest man in America, a huge funder of birthright israel, Bush’s election campaigns, the ZOA, the Republican Jewish Caucus (check out the new RJC Watch blog, by the way), One Jerusalem, AIPAC…the list goes on. You’re looking at the sugardaddy-Godfather of American (Jewish) right-wingery here.

As the New Yorker is prone to do, the article spans a whopping twelve pages, detailing the origins of his money in gambling, his use of campaign connections to Tom DeLay and others to scuttle a bill opposing China’s Olympic bid because it threatened a casino he was building in Macoa, and his vindictive funding of opposition to former political allies (or withdrawing a $250K pledge to a synagogue and giving it to Chabad instead, after the rabbi refused to cross a union picketline at one of Sheldon’s hotels). The man has also been sued by his own three sons for purportedly defrauding them.
The most preposterous assertion by Adelson (despite his outrageous attempts to take down Olmert’s coalition to get Bibi elected) has to be to this quote on his business ethics, which he gave before one of the many court cases he’s been tried in:

“I know there’s a perception in life that people who become financially successful do so by climbing up the broken backs of people whose backs they break, but . . . with the values that I grew up with, there’s just no way that I—that any deal can be broken. . . . I never climbed up on . . . anybody’s broken back,” Adelson said.

The article is extremely detailed into his business misdealings. Reading it is like watching a train wreck — you can’t tear your eyes away from the page, even as thick as it gets. The potential anti-Semitism quotient of the Adelson article should cross everyone’s mind at least once — “another rich Jew buying Congress” etc. Adelson is a particular embarrassment — not as a right-winger out to influence government, but as a Jew who is seen by the world to represent us. (Where is the ADL campaign against the stereotypes Sheldon is reinforcing?)
The greatest evils of the modern world are found in the banalities of policy, law and the structure of society. To read through the whole disinteresting nitty gritty of the article is almost painful. But you should.
I’m inspired greatly by Uri L’tzedek and J Street both for taking on Jewish-owned businesses and Jewish politicians pandering to Christian Zionist money, respectively, in public campaigns. Such incidents of Jewish ethical and moral courage are rare — such as the Everett family’s open opposition to a Tisch family tabacco kingpin’s appointment to the board of UJA-Fed of NY, another little incident from late 90s which gives me hope. Unfortunately, I feel the cases are few and far between.
As is said in Bavli, Shabbat 54b:

Whoever is able to protest against the transgressors of his own family and does not is punished for the transgressions of his whole family. Whoever is able to protest against the transgressions of his own community and does not is punished for the transgressions of his whole community. Whoever is able to protest against the transgressions of the world and does not is punished for the transgressions of the whole world.

Kudos to Uri L’Tzedek and J Street, among all the others doing this work. You’re a pride to us all.

18 thoughts on “Jewish money and power up close: Sheldon Adelson

  1. Oh, and he makes money from ?? casinos, too. Do right-wing Jews know that their Adelson money comes from the hard-working efforts of Chinese Triads?

  2. Why restrain yourself from all the really good slurs against Jews that reaffirm stereotypes then? Get it all out. Can’t wait for Kung Fu Jews’s post about the Jewish run media next.

  3. In general I have no quarrel with anything you said. I do see Birthright as different from all those other causes. Though it does present a too “bright” picture of Israel, it is pretty centerist or non-ideological, as far as I can tell, in ideology, unlike almost everything else he supports.

  4. Wow, and we actually wonder why stereotypes exist. I want to be clear; of course all anti-semetic, like all racist, you name your minority group, form of discrimination are all horrific, but they are often sometimes based on some distorted version of reality.
    So ugh, I see us addressing the stereotype head-on by mentioning “money and power” as being honest and transparent, instead of worried about a PC, too-sensitive mentality, which often infects our parents’ generation.

  5. Jeff, birthright is not the ZOA for sure. I have a little more respect for it than before. A little. But this is Sheldon’s thinking on young Jews:
    At a formal dinner attended by more than a hundred senior officials of various Israeli and Jewish organizations, guests were offered the opportunity to tell Peres what they considered the biggest challenge facing the Jewish people. Adelson, according to Ha’aretz, declared, “I think Jews should have lots of sex. That is the solution to our demographic problem.”
    And hey, I’m a sex-positive person. But I couldn’t give a shit about demographics.
    The greatest threat to the Jewish people is our organized communal leadership’s apathy for anything but our own survival. And in that, birthright israel is still on my yet-to-prove-yourself list.

  6. Not only is it so upsetting that the Jewish community is doing nothing to protest the dirty casino money being passed around (so its not ok to gamble but its ok to accept money from gambling tycoons?) it’s also upsetting that the political leaders are just as complacent.
    I couldn’t believe that Adelson and his hot wife were the “honorary chairs” (read funders and influencers) who hosted the Israeli Presidential Conference starring Bush, Condaleeza, Kissinger, Peres, Olmert, Barak, Livni, Bibi, and on and on. Did no one realize the immorality behind that? Usually, in these kind of situations, the corruption is swept under the carpet so that no one knows about it, and even if they did, it would be difficult to dig up, but what surprised me about this was how “in your face” the corruption was. Is this the direction that politics is heading? Shameless demoralization? What’s next, the Donald Trump Presidential Elections?

  7. What’s your problem with this guy — that he’s incredibly successful, or that he disagrees with you?
    This guy earned his money — you might not like the way he did it, and perhaps some of his methods are suspect, but he does not appear to be under indictment at the present time. And he uses the money he earned to support causes he believes in. That’s not dishonorable. If you disagree with him, then how about making your case as to why he’s wrong, rather than just leveling insults.
    Much of what you write could easily be applied to the jewish lefties’ favorite magnate, George Soros. Stop villifying people who think differently than you, and prove your case instead. Maybe you’ll actually persuade someone that your correct, instead of alienating them with your complaints.

  8. The guy also gives a great deal of money to the Boston Jewish Federation and many other less controversial charities which would be supported by most of the folks here. He gives more away than most of us will see in a gazillion lifetimes. I don’t like his politics, but would that the Jewish community had more people who were as committed to giving as he is.

  9. Too Old to Jewschool Steve asked:
    “What’s your problem with this guy — that he’s incredibly successful, or that he disagrees with you?”
    I can’t speak for everyone else, but my problem with the guy? His actions and motivations are in opposition to the fundamentals of Jewish ethics (remember the part where we’re supposed to be honest in our business dealings?); despite this fact, his power and money afford him a place in Jewish leadership. To top it all off, he’s like a living caricature that wandered out of Elders of Zion. So in general, yeah; he’s bad for the Jews. Bad example for the yeladim, scapegoat for the goyim, and all-around less-than-righteous individual shaping the future of Klal Yisrael (probably with future profits in mind). But it’s not even about him so much. It’s a barometer of a regrettable phenomenon.

  10. Goyisher — You need to get out a little more! Deal with the world as it is. Adelson’s ethics aren’t to your liking? That’s not for you to judge, in the great scheme of things — although no one is forcing you to buy the services or products he’s selling. Clearly, many people enjoy the quality of the services he provides which, by the way, are legal. Adelson, whom I’ve never met and have not personal connection to (I’m not even a gambling/casino fan)undoubtedly took great risk to be so successful. And to this credit, he shares his money liberally. You may not like all the causes he funds but, hey, its his money.

  11. Too Old to Jewschool Steve: Aw, poor, infinitely rich guy, victimized by our principles of fair wages and progressive politics. Must be rough, you know, but good thing his own children sued him — now he’s rough and tough and can take it from a few hobby bloggers on this here site.
    Seriously — this guy is bad for the Jews in the same way that I think Likud is bad for the Jews. He’s going to get more of us killed.

  12. Most of you are nuts. Adelson and his wife single-handedly fund more Jewish causes both in Israel and the States than any other Jewish or non-Jewish philanthropist. I wouldn’t be surprised if in addition to birthright, slews of Federated agencies, and Yad Vashem, Jewschool and other liberally minded blogs and outlets for American Jewish thought, receive funding directly or indirectly from Adelson’s generous reach. If Adelson gave his dollars to NJDC as opposed to RJC (and don’t pretend for a moment that NJDC wouldn’t take his dollars!) you’d have no issue I’m sure. You may disagree with his politics, but he is the #1 Jewish philanthropist in the world and his tzedakah serves as example to all of us.

  13. I’m still waiting for the people who object to Adelson’s wealth to give us the guide of how to become rich according to their moral standards. Are real estate or hedge fund fortunes kosher for the critics? (stifles laughter)

  14. DRW, dude, read the post — wealth isn’t the problem here and I never said it was. I said his values are deplorable. The whole article is about his abuse of protectzia and numerous references to union-busting.
    As I mentioned, the Henry and Edith Everett family forture is one I admire — Edith Everett was one of the first women on Wall Street and ran her husbands hedge fund, made a killing, and together they’re giving it all away. Henry passed away in ’05 and now Edith runs the foundation full-time. They personally attacked the Tisch family forture for making money off cigarettes (see link above). And to this day, she heckles the right-wing Manhattan Institute public forums from the front row. I think she’s a model philanthropist.

  15. And how can you be so sure about the purity of the wealth accumulated by the Everetts? Learn some basic economics. Unless someone is creating capital (manufacturing for example), they are simply taking money from other people’s pockets – maybe from stupid people, granted. Hedge fund people and investors (remember the cake crumb analogy from Bonfire?) are the ultimate example of this. Not to mention the people put out of work by the “management decisions” implemented when these outside investors seize companies. Didn’t Shaw cover this topic a century ago?

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