Ronald Perelman, Lev Leviev and Tevfik Arif Among Wealthy Donors to the Chabad Movement

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( — March 1, 2019) — Chabad-Lubavitch, also known simply as Chabad, is one of the most well-known and fastest growing Hasidic movements and the closest approximation to evangelism in Judaism. Their primary mission is to promote and revive the Jewish faith, while supporting Jewish communities around the globe. Their most visible presence are Chabad houses that can be found in cities of all sizes around the world.

What is Chabad?

Chabad local organizations provide for Jewish communities through outreach activities serving the needs of the community and advancing the renewal of the Jewish faith. Chabad centers often provide religious services, child care, education and organized activities for all ages.

While Chabad is an Orthodox Hasidic movement its practice blends traditional values with modern day techniques. Chabad advocate a policy of openness, accepting Jews from all levels of religious commitment and practice. They promote cooperation and non-judgment, while maintaining a positive outlook on life and helping those in need. Chabad supports the integration of the Jewish faith in all aspects of life, family and community.

Philanthropy and service are part of the Chabad movement’s commitment to the Jewish Community. They pride themselves on providing a home away from home for Jews anywhere in the world. The doors of Chabad Houses are open and accepting to every single Jew regardless of affiliation, background or religious commitment.

Today there are over 4,000 official Chabad emissary families operating 3,500 institutions in 81 countries with additional affiliated activities occurring in many more. The Chabad network also includes a group of rabbis and Jewish educators prominently featured on college campuses worldwide.

The Wealthy Donors of Chabad

Chabad relies heavily on donors to effectively carry out their activities. The organization has become an attractive pursuit to donors big and small. Most of the donations made to Chabad Houses and institutions across the world are made in small sums by private individuals, but there are an increasing number of notorious high-profile donors who give large donations to the movement.

Many of the world’s most successful businessmen and industry leaders have identified ties to the Chabad organization. Chabad has attracted top Israeli business leaders including Nochi Dankner, Israel’s richest woman Shari Arison through the Ted Arison Foundation, and venture capitalist Shlomo Kalish. Lev Leviev known as the “King of Diamonds” has been a major patron to the Chabad movement in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.

Chabad is hugely popular In Russia and across Eastern Europe. One of the most sacred sites of the movement, the graves of spiritual leaders Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson and Shmuel Schneersohn, is in Lyubavichi, Russia. Chabad Rabbi Berel Lazar has been recognized by the Russian government as the Chief Rabbi of Russia.

Many former Soviet oligarchs, some who have been drawn back to Judaism through Chabad, have become supporters and donors including Mikhail Mirilashvili of Georgia, Ukrainian billionaire Gennadiy Bogolyubov, Alexander Granovsky from Ukraine and Alexander Mashkevich. Although he is not Jewish, Tevfik Arif, a Kazak-Turkish real estate investor and partner in Doyen Group, has become one of the largest single donors to the Chabad Center of Port Washington in Long Island, the community where he owns a residence. 

The religious movement has also found supporters among the most successful American business leaders. Ronald Perelman, American billionaire and philanthropist of Revlon fame, has become a close friend and follower of Rabbi Avrohom Shemtov, the director of the Philadelphia Lubavitcher Center. Perelman has made numerous donations to Chabad and has a building dedicated in his name at the University of Pennsylvania, the Ronald O. Perelman Center for Jewish Life-Lubavitch House. Other prominent American Chabad donors include: American investor and billionaire Michael Steinhardt, heir to Estee Lauder Companies Ronald Lauder and Shaya Boymelgreen.

Globally, Australian tycoon Joseph Gutnick, South African billionaire Nathan Kirsh, and Eduardo Elsztain, Argentina’s largest real-estate developer, are all well-known supporters of Chabad.

What attracts donors to Chabad?

Why do so many prominent business leaders donate to the Chabad organization? With its decentralized structure, Chabad is an interesting choice for financial donors. It has no financial or organizational anchor that can be controlled by money. Its power hierarchy is reversed from the traditional model, with most of the financial and political power wielded from the bottom up.

Once placed in a location, Chabad emissaries receive a small stipend for the first year from the Lubavitch World Headquarters. Later, emissaries must rely on local donations to fund their Chabad Houses, schools, synagogues and other services. The Headquarters functions as a spiritual and moral director, rather than an economic one. Donations can be made to the Lubavitch World Headquarters and are used for maintenance, publishing and other miscellaneous services provided to emissaries.

Because Chabad lacks a traditional hierarchical structure, it also means that there is no bureaucratic red tape involved for donors. Donations have immediate tangible results. Patrons can see their money in action in Chabad’s action-oriented activities and services.

For most of those who donate money to Chabad, it is their religious mission and philosophy of joy and acceptance that makes them attractive. Giving money to Chabad is a voluntary act and it must be understood from the beginning that Chabad has an ideological spiritual mission. With that said, because Chabad has an extensive global network, with outposts in cities large and small, it has favorable connections to business communities and governments all over the world. Through their patronage, business leaders may be hoping to gain access to financial networking and connections facilitated by the members of the movement. However, under moral teachings, the movement distances itself from business dealings.

In the end, donors identify with the core philanthropic and spiritual mission of Chabad. Supporting Chabad provides patrons a means for active involvement in the Jewish faith and community. It gives them a link to their Jewish heritage and they know that their donation will go directly to supporting a Jewish cause.