The modern day story of Sheldon Adelson appears to draw parallels from William Shakespeare’s lesser known dark comedy The Life of Timon of Athens.
The character Timon is a wealthy, good natured and overly generous merchant who bestows lavish gifts upon his friends, courtiers and local senators. But when his fortune takes a turn for the worse, and he reaches out to his beneficiaries for support, they firmly and politely excuse themselves, leaving Timon cynical, despondent and withdrawn.
No doubt in some societies, dissipating wealth is a sure way to lose a certain kind of friend, but a faster method it seems, in various Jewish circles is to vocally express support for a Republican political candidate.
Adelson was just another lesser known American billionaire before this election cycle began, but after pledging support for right of center candidates, first Newt Gingrich and now Mitt Romney, he has become somewhat of a household name, and not in a good way. He has been referred to as ‘bad’ and ‘a danger to the republic,’ and I have seen it implied that he is a ‘threat,’ and an ‘embarrassment.’ Judging by the pitch of the venomous vitriol, perhaps an outside observer might be forgiven for concluding that this gentleman represents no less than the greatest single threat to this nation.
Sure Adelson is rich, very rich, but in many ways he is the same as you and me. He strives not to pay more taxes then he legally owes, and is passionate about his opinions and beliefs on a number of matters. Unlike most of us however, he gives away a lot of his money in the service of what he believes will make the world a better place for his descendants to live in. Living by Ghandi’s idiom, “be the change you want to see in the world.”
The greatest possibly legitimate argument of Adelson’s detractors, who claim that one man shouldn’t be allowed to exercise such influence, is a challenge primarily to the system that he has fully engaged. Because, as he has made clear, he wishes to counterbalance others on the other side of the political spectrum who have effectively leveraged enhanced clout. He plays by the rules that he did not make himself.
Adelson also faces some legal challenges and investigations, the legitimacy of which are to be determined in time by judge and jury, but largely he is pilloried for his conservative views.
In truth, none of the above surprises me. It is par for the course for any public figure, especially one who is that politically active. What I fail to fathom however, is why so few have come to his defense, either ideologically or personally. In his hour of need, facing the dock of public opinion, his myriad beneficiaries shamefully stand muted.
Where are the tens of thousands of young Birthright alums petitioning, blogging, creating Facebook groups and opining on his behalf? Reminding the public that they were not asked about their political persuasion before being granted the Israel experience of a lifetime on his dime.
Where is the impassioned testimony to Adelson’s generosity of character and passionate idealism from the Chairman of Yad Vashem? – the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem which had its fortunes revived as a result of his $25 million gift in 2006 according to the JTA.
What of the collaborating Neural Repair and Rehabilitation researchers at 10 universities whose cutting edge research was facilitated by a $7.5 million grant from the Adelson Medical Research Foundation. How about their public statement affirming the positive impact this man has made on their work, and the lives of the patients that have benefited from the research he made possible?
The list goes on, but politics aside, it is Adelson’s person that is now under assault and it his person that is worthy of a thorough defense. Who better to rally behind him then those whose lives and visions have been directly enhanced by his sweeping generosity?