Adam Milstein: How One Philanthropist Makes a World of Difference
Adam Milstein is a man who wears many hats. To say that he is a leader in the Israeli-American community is an understatement. Milstein is the chairman of the Israeli-American Council (the largest organization of its kind in America), which he co-founded. And he serves on boards of many other pro-Israeli organizations, including the Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation, which he co-founded with his wife, Gila.
Not only is Adam Milstein a leader in the Jewish community, he’s also a revered real estate investor in Los Angeles and managing partner of Hager Pacific Properties – a company which owns over 100 different properties valued at over $1 billion.
If you were to examine an average day in the life of Adam Milstein, you would have no idea of his humble beginnings. His life trajectory was not always pointed in this direction.
Milstein was born in 1952 in Haifa, Israel, a major seaport that’s located on the Mediterranean coast, 50 miles north of Tel Aviv. Haifa is Israel’s third largest city and is famous for its beautiful setting on the slopes of Mount Carmel. His mother stayed at home and his father worked as a real estate developer. He spent his childhood in Haifa. At the age of 19, Milstein joined the Israeli Defense Forces. Little did he know that, during the Yom Kippur War, his brigade leader, Ariel Sharon, would become the future Prime Minister of Israel.
After Adam Milstein’s service in the Yom Kippur War ended, he married his love, Gila. She had also served as an officer in the Israeli army and immigrated to Israel at the age of six from her home country of Morocco. With Gila, Adam found the ultimate life companion who would be able to partner with him to achieve many of his dreams and desires, grounded in the same love for their home state of Israel.
Milstein earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial and Business Management from the Israel Institute of Technology in 1978. Then, in 1981 his life took a dramatic turn when he and Gila moved to the United States to pursue an MBA at the University of Southern California (USC).
Real Estate and Philanthropy: The Beginning
Although his father was a real estate developer in his own right, it wasn’t until arriving in the United States that Milstein explored the opportunities in this lucrative market. He started working in the industry at Hager Pacific Properties after completing his MBA degree at USC. Milstein believes in hard work and discipline, and this dedication to his beliefs paid off immensely in his life and the lives of others.
Not only did Adam Milstein begin his real estate career at Hager Pacific Properties, but it was also where he was first introduced to philanthropy. After experiencing financial success through is work, he soon discovered that making money wasn’t enough – he wasn’t fully satisfied by that pursuit alone.
Perhaps it was due to his upbringing in a country that was still working to the bone daily to find and protect its own identity. Or, perhaps, it was one of the seeds planted in him through his experience as an expatriate. Whatever it was, it was during these formative early years of Milstein’s career that he fell in love with philanthropy. He realized that it was the answer to a question he had quietly sought for years: purpose. Adam Milstein knew he wanted to build a legacy, and for his work and the money to be a part of something far bigger than himself.
The Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation
Adam Milstein understands the power of partnership, and nowhere is that more evident than in his work with his wife, Gila. As Milstein was learning about the world of philanthropy, he had many long discussions with Gila, bringing her on the journey too, so they could shape the future and make their mark together.
One thing Adam and Gila both share is their passion for Israel. This shared passion led them to create the Adam and Gila Family Milstein Family Foundation. The Foundation’s principles are shared on their website and include:
- Active Philanthropy: Beyond the funding of organizations, projects and programs (OPP’s), Adam and Gila believe in the importance of the investment of time and resources. The Foundation’s staff are trained to look for ways to further the impact and support of the OPP’s they fund and are tasked with coming up with innovative ways to ensure allocated funds will achieve above and beyond what’s possible, rather than solely being contributed to the general fund.
- Life Path Impact: The Foundation monitors that the OPPs they invest in work to engage their target audience from youth through to adulthood. Programs that are supported work together with each other, setting up pathways for individuals to continue to benefit from as they age themselves from one life stage to another.
- Philanthropic Synergy: The Foundation (as a part of Adam and Gila’s core and strategic beliefs) looks t combine the resources of several philanthropic organizations to increase the impact and effect of their efforts overall. By creating a space where non-profits can work in unity to the benefit of mutual programs, projects and outcomes, the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts. This is a clear space where Adam’s strategic business abilities have had a direct impact on how the Foundation delivers maximum value.
Since the Milstein Family Foundation’s mission is broad, it also supports a broad range of organizations and provides financial and advisory support in the following areas:
- Health and Medical
- Jewish and Israel Education
- Policy Research and Democratic Think Tanks
- State of Israel Legitimacy & Support
- Youth & Young Professional Engagement & Outreach
- Combating Antisemitism and Anti-Israel Activity across college campuses
- Israeli-American & Jewish Community Service
- Media Accuracy
- Non-Governmental Organization Monitoring
By working across such a broad range of areas, the Milstein Family Foundation can see its mission realized on many different levels, furthering progress, and educating individuals and communities on many fronts.
The Israeli-American Council
With his natural drive, creativity, and inclination for hard work, Adam Milstein saw that things needed to be done even beyond what his Foundation could achieve. He came to the realization that there was a lack of philanthropic organizations to aid Jewish Americans and those living in Israel.
Israel has many amenities provided by the state for free public use, so there isn’t a cultural norm of donating to charities. In this disconnect, Milstein found the inspiration to create change: inspiring philanthropy on an individual basis, strengthening the ties between Israel and the U.S., and improving relations with Jewish people from both countries. So, Adam Milstein co-founded the Israeli-American Council, alongside other prominent and respected Israeli-American leaders.
As one of its founding members, Adam still serves on the board as its chairman today. The Israeli-American Council is the fastest-growing Jewish organization in the world and has connections to over 500,000 Israeli-Americans. The Council has fulfilled many elements of Milstein’s vision. It has brought Israeli-Americans together to cement identities, strengthen their ties to their home country of Israel, and introduce a new generation of American-born Israelis to their cultural heritage and the Jewish identity.
With his work across the IAC and the Milstein Family Foundation, Adam has played a strategic role in strengthening the connection between Jewish-Americans and Israelis, and even non-Jewish Americans.
The Philanthropy Continues
While working as an executive at Hagar Pacific and co-founding two major philanthropic organizations might be enough hats for some, Adam Milstein has room for more. His passion for strengthening the ties of Jewish Americans with the Homeland fuels his energy to do all that he can. In addition to his Family Foundation and the IAC, Milstein is involved with multiple other organizations including:
- Sifriyat Pijama B’America (SP-BA): Milstein co-founded this Hebrew and Jewish family literacy program. SP-BA sends high-quality Hebrew children’s literature and music to families on a monthly basis. The materials are designed for ages 2-8.
- StandWithUs: Adam Milstein serves on the board of this international education organization. StandWithUs was founded in 2001 and its purpose is to share Israel’s side of the story amidst all the misinformation surrounding the Middle East conflict.
- Hasbara Fellowships: This organization leads pro-Israel activism across 120 different college campuses in North America. Milstein has served on Hasbara’s board since 2000.
- Israel on Campus Coalition: This organization, based in Washington, D.C., empowers a network of Israel supporters to provide information and resources for pro-Israel supporters on university campuses. It was established during a wave of anti-Semitism in 2002. Adam Milstein has been involved since its inception.
Recent Work: Adam Milstein’s Feature in The Zionist Ideas, Visions for the Jewish Homeland—Then, Now and Tomorrow
Adam Milstein has recently received the honor of being featured in a new book by Gil Troy, a Distinguished Scholar of North American History at McGill University. Some of his comments in this work on the topic of Israeliness include:
Israeliness incorporates many elements, including Israeli culture, Jewish values and Hebrew, the language of our Bible; extraordinary pride in Jewish tradition and our history; a deep belief in Zionism; an incredible connection between Israelis and the Land of Israel; and a comment to the idea ‘Kol Yisra’el areivim zeh lazeh’, ‘All of the children of Israel are responsible for one another.’
Milstein’s commitment to this idea is seen throughout his work and charitable impact on behalf of all Israelis and Jewish-Americans.
He goes on to continue to explain why he believes cultural heritage must play a role in future progress:
Israeliness opens up a whole new world for young American Jews, many of whom have been conditioned to believe that Jewish identity must be centred around attending synagogue. In discovering their homeland, young Jews are able to discover a piece of themselves, connect with young Israelis, and find new ways to express their Judaism through an Israeli lens.
It’s clear in his words, and in his work, that Milstein holds a deep spiritual, emotional, and moral connection to the Israeli Homeland. This recognition, even across the ocean, is something to be celebrated, nurtured, and adopted, rather than segmented into one aspect of life.
Adam Milstein’s Forward-Thinking Views
As much as Milstein continues to work on behalf of Israel, he holds on to a few beliefs that may be unpopular to those who have never lived anywhere other than Israel. Particularly, Adam states in The Zionist Ideas that:
The obsolete call for all Jews to immigrate to Israel doesn’t work anymore. A changing paradigm for understanding the relationship between Israel and the Jewish world now rests on Jewish peoplehood. Jews should build Jewish communities all over the world that embrace a strong Jewish heritage and a strong connection to the state of Israel… Israeli Americans and Israelis share the same identity, which is a combination of culture, language, Jewish heritage, Zionism, a feeling of responsibility for standing up for the Jewish people and the State of Israel, and the values of brother, sisterhood, and family.
Rather than believing that true Israeliness can only be achieved by being geographically located in Israel, Milstein holds firm to the belief that Israeliness is a ‘twenty-first-century manifestation of the Zionist dream.’
He believes integration in countries and regions all over the world will allow the Jewish heritage to be protected – not through a protectionist manifesto, but rather an openness to the shifts and evolutions of people and culture in a modern world. Israeliness is not locked to a region. It’s a system of beliefs, ideas, cultures and practices that can be taken anywhere, so long as it’s respected, understood, and celebrated.
The Importance of Passion
Adam Milstein has passion for his work. He spends most of his time engaged in charitable and philanthropic activities, working above and beyond the requirements of a full-time job for no monetary reward. At the same time, he maintains his responsibilities as a managing partner at Hager Pacific Properties. Milstein’s belief in the importance of philanthropic involvement means he’s able to work from the heart, driven by something far beyond a pay check. He is motivated by a deep passion for his people, his homeland, and its future, and allows that energy to funnel through into his philanthropic work on a day to day basis.
Because of his passion, Adam Milstein has received recognition and respect as a leading figure in the philanthropic world. In April 2017, Milstein was honored as one of the 200 Most Influential Do-Gooders in the world by the digital platform Richtopia.
He’s sharing his passion with a new generation by utilizing social media outlets. Through his Twitter and Facebook presence, Milstein directly engages with a younger demographic of the community of young Israeli-Americans looking to understand their own cultural identity. He was recently named one of the top 25 most influential people on Jewish Twitter.
In November 2017, the Milstein Family Foundation even ran a Milstein Meme Competition, inviting submissions that showed the “fun and funny side of pro-Israel activism by creating entertaining and shareable things.”
By using memes to explore important cultural issues, the organization engaged with a young and vibrant demographic, introducing them to their work and to their core belief systems. Rather than being averse to social media and to technology advances, Milstein has harnessed its powers and shape to use it to his advantage.
A Family Business
Looking at the trajectory of Adam’s life, it’s clear that his deep commitment to family and country has shaped every major decision he’s faced. What’s most incredible about Adam Milstein’s work is that so much of what he’s achieved has been with Gila at his side. Founding the Foundation, investing time and energy into philanthropic activities, and raising his own family, Adam and Gila have proven that the bonds of marriage can serve a far greater purpose than just their own journey. By dedicating their lives to the service of others, they’ve been able to use their love for each other and their love of Israel to foster a sense of unity, vision, and passion. The Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation is a direct reflection of the work they do year after year.
No matter how many years have passed since Milstein first arrived in the United States, he has never forgotten his love of Israel. To this day, he remains dedicated to his home state. But he also has a deep passion for Jewish people living in other countries as he does. By bringing awareness and engagement to his new country of the United States, Adam has been able to achieve far more than he ever anticipated on behalf of Israel. His work in strengthening Israeli-American ties and continuing to protect Israeliness on a foreign shore has indeed built the legacy he set out to build so many years ago. Adam Milstein has ensured that his life will leave a lasting impact on the lives of many to come in future generations.