Michael Steinhardt is never satisfied.
That’s what drives some of those who work with him crazy at times. But it’s also what drives his success as a businessman and major philanthropist.
While much of the Jewish community, here and in Israel, has been heralding birthright israel — the audacious project he helped found to give every young Jew in the world a free trip to Israel — as the most exciting and successful of efforts to increase Jewish identity, Steinhardt has been grumbling that it’s not enough.
Taking part in a panel the other night at the JCC in Manhattan on “Israel, The Jews and The Press: Exploding the Myths,” my colleagues — Clyde Haberman of The New York Times and Sam Freedman of the Columbia Journalism School and the Times — and I felt like we were in a time warp.
Jerusalem — I attended the biggest Mega-Event ever for Birthright Israel last Sunday night, with 7,500 screaming participants gathered at an outdoor amphitheater near here, and my ears are still ringing.
Petra, Jordan — At a conference here one day last week I had informal, friendly chats with more than a dozen people, including an American Nobel laureate in chemistry; a young man from Saudi Arabia in full native dress who is a student at MIT; the former headmaster of the New England prep school that King Abdullah II of Jordan attended (who is now, at the request of the king, heading a new boarding school in Jordan modeled after the American one); a British expert on mapping the mind; and a veteran columnist for Al-Hayat, a major Arab daily owned by the Saudis.