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Meet the Sugar Mama of Anti-Muslim Hate

Philanthropist Nina Rosenwald has used her millions to cement the alliance between the pro-Israel lobby and the Islamophobic fringe.

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Through her affiliation with the Washington-based Hudson Institute, where Norman Podhoretz is an adjunct fellow, Rosenwald established a branch of the think tank in New York City. Operating under the Hudson banner, Rosenwald brought Wilders to town in 2008 to warn against the Muslim plot to “rule the world by the sword.” Wilders’s tirade during that visit against the prophet Muhammad, whom he described as “a warlord, a mass murderer, a pedophile,” was strident even by the standards of the hawkish Hudson Institute. By 2011, well before Wilders’s return visit this year, Rosenwald separated Hudson New York City from Hudson’s national branch, changing her organization’s name to the Gatestone Institute. Today, Rosenwald maintains a seat on Hudson’s board of directors.

Nina Rosenwald’s influence is based on the fortune her grandfather Julius earned at the turn of the century as co-owner of Sears, Roebuck & Company. Julius Rosenwald, renowned for his liberal philanthropy, used his fortune to nurture the careers of African-American leaders from Booker T. Washington to W.E.B. Du Bois and writers Langston Hughes and Claude McKay. Like many Reform Jews of his time, Rosenwald kept a cautious distance from Zionism, which organizations like the American Jewish Committee treated as a potential threat to Jewish assimilation in America.

Julius’s son, William, continued the philanthropic tradition his father inaugurated. With rabbis Abba Hillel Silver and Jonah Wise, two early leaders of the American Zionist movement, William Rosenwald helped form the United Jewish Appeal for Refugees and Overseas Needs to “fortify the Jews of all countries against anti-Semitic onslaughts.” Rosenwald’s efforts to resettle imperiled European Jews vaulted him into a lifetime of leadership of major Jewish organizations. In the aftermath of the 1967 war, when Israel began its illegal military occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights, Rosenwald, like most Jewish institutional leaders, intensified his commitment to the cause of Zionism.

Following their father, Nina Rosenwald and her siblings became active in the pro-Israel community. While her sister Elizabeth has assumed a lower profile, there is hardly a single major pro-Israel organization that does not provide Rosenwald with a seat on its board of directors. Thanks to her financial generosity, Rosenwald sits on the board of influential neoconservative groups from WINEP and AIPAC as well as Hudson. She is the vice president of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, which has provided training to thousands of American law enforcement and military officials from Israeli intelligence and police officers.

While entrenched in the pro-Israel establishment in the United States, Rosenwald has funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars into some of the Jewish state’s more unpleasant—and legally dubious—ventures. The Rosenwald Family Fund has provided at least $100,000, for example, to the Golan Fund, an initiative of the Israel Land Fund that aims to increase the “Jewish presence” in Israel’s Galilee region and the occupied Golan Heights by “obtain[ing] more of that [Arab] land for agricultural use,” according to its website. Extending its influence across the Green Line, the Rosenwald Family Fund has also provided financial support to the College of Judea (now Ariel University Center of Samaria) in the Israeli mega-settlement of Ariel; the Beit El yeshiva, a religious nationalist school situated in a West Bank settlement that instructs students to disobey government orders to abandon illegal settlement outposts; and to the Central Fund for Israel, a New York City–based nonprofit that serves as a major funding artery between American-based donors and the hardcore settlements of the West Bank.

According to Henry Siegman, a former executive director of the American Jewish Congress who serves as president of the US/Middle East Project, the Rosenwald family’s rightward trajectory reflects a generational shift within the Jewish American establishment. “The trend is not something that just emerged recently,” Siegman told me. “Over the last few decades, the Jewish Federations and AIPAC have played a significant role in shaping this reactionary move by advancing the notion that we should support any government in Israel and any policy that the government espouses. The Jewish organizations that opposed this line and took the opposite position were punished financially by the wealthy donors AIPAC was able to put together.”

 
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