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New York - Google Billionaire Aids Jewish Charity That Aided Him

Published on: October 24, 2009 10:03 PM
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Googles Billionaire Sergey Brin, 8, with the family dog, Boss, in Maryland, two years after the Brins left the Soviet Union for the United States. Photo: NY TimesNew York - Were it not for the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, there might be no Google.

Thirty years ago today, Sergey Brin, a 6-year-old Soviet boy facing an uncertain future, arrived in the United States with the help of the society.

Now Mr. Brin, the billionaire co-founder of Google, is giving $1 million to the society, widely known as HIAS, which helped his family escape anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union and establish itself here.

“I would have never had the kinds of opportunities I’ve had here in the Soviet Union, or even in Russia today,” Mr. Brin said in an interview. “I would like to see anyone be able to achieve their dreams, and that’s what this organization does.”

The gift is small, given Mr. Brin’s estimated $16 billion in personal wealth, but he said it signaled a growing commitment by him and his wife, Anne Wojcicki, to engage more substantially in philanthropy.

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“We’ve given away over $30 million so far, which isn’t so tiny but obviously small in terms of our, um, theoretical wealth,” Mr. Brin said. “Our philanthropy is something I want to take my time with and develop and systematize.”

He has already learned enough about philanthropy to add immediately: “Our foundation is not soliciting proposals. Please make sure to include that.”

Mr. Brin noted that Bill Gates, the chairman of Microsoft, was widely criticized for not giving away enough money but is now known as one of the world’s leading philanthropists. “While everyone was criticizing him, he was generating a whole lot more money for his foundation, and ultimately, when he got serious about philanthropy, he did it really well,” Mr. Brin said. “I’d like to learn from that example.”

The bulk of the money the Brins have given away has gone to the Michael J. Fox Foundation and other research organizations devoted to Parkinson’s disease. But this year, in honor of the 30th anniversary of the Brin family’s immigration to the United States, they have given gifts to several Jewish organizations that aided along the way. HIAS, which helped the family navigate the cumbersome process of leaving the Soviet Union for the United States, paid for tickets, gave them money and helped them apply for visas, received the largest amount.

The family lived in Paris for several months while waiting for visas and then moved to Maryland, and the relationship with HIAS ended. “Although they gave us tremendous help, we didn’t stay connected with HIAS,” said Eugenia Brin, Mr. Brin’s mother. “Then a few years ago, I guess because of Google, we got a call from HIAS asking if we could help them digitize their archives.”

Eventually, Mrs. Brin joined the HIAS board and started a social networking site, mystory.hias.org , initially to encourage Russian Jewish immigrants to post their stories and eventually to attract the stories of other immigrants.

Gideon Aronoff, chief executive of HIAS, said the gift would be put to a variety of uses, like increasing the organization’s use of technology and supporting advocacy on immigration policy.

“One of the most important things that Sergey Brin’s gift signifies, not just for HIAS but more importantly for the nation,” Mr. Aronoff said, “is the possibilities inherent in being a refugee. The debate over immigration has frequently become so bitter that an important element has been lost: refugees are as varied in their skills sets and contributions as the rest of us.”



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Read Comments (25)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Oct 24, 2009 at 10:37 PM Anonymous Says:

Shlach Lachm'chu Al Pnei HaMoim Ki B'Roiv Haumim Timtzuany!

2

 Oct 24, 2009 at 10:37 PM OMG Says:

The HIAS helped tens of thousands of Jew relocate after world war II including my mother and father and my older brother.

3

 Oct 24, 2009 at 11:20 PM Please, Mr. Brin Says:

Mr Brin, please give tzedukah to the charities that support Jewish education and feed poor Jewish children and elderly. There are so many in Eretz Yisrael and New York. You were blessed with so much wealth. The needs are now. Please do not wait. You will be blessed so much. Thank you for listening.

4

 Oct 25, 2009 at 07:10 AM Shlomo Says:

Reply to #3  
Please, Mr. Brin Says:

Mr Brin, please give tzedukah to the charities that support Jewish education and feed poor Jewish children and elderly. There are so many in Eretz Yisrael and New York. You were blessed with so much wealth. The needs are now. Please do not wait. You will be blessed so much. Thank you for listening.

What's wrong with him giving to charities that help ALL people -- Jews and non-Jews alike??? Oh, I forgot; in our little Judeocentric world nobody else really counts.

5

 Oct 25, 2009 at 09:06 AM Eli Says:

Reply to #4  
Shlomo Says:

What's wrong with him giving to charities that help ALL people -- Jews and non-Jews alike??? Oh, I forgot; in our little Judeocentric world nobody else really counts.

There's nothing wrong with providing help to all people, and it's very admirable. That being said, there's no question that according to Halacha, Jewish causes are supposed to benefit from your charity first. (Aniyei ircha kodmim, etc., etc.)

6

 Oct 25, 2009 at 08:50 AM Anonymous Says:

There was an article a few years ago that HIAS doesn't do much anymore since people aren't immigrating from Russia anymore.

7

 Oct 25, 2009 at 02:22 AM Anonymous Says:

Tzedakkah is for those who cannot do for themselves. Always in life there are so many who need our help.

But in this case, the inspiration for all is that this Jewish immigrant boy, like so many boys before him, came to America with nothing----but he did not stand in line as a nebuch, or beg that other men should work long hours to support him and his children.

Instead, he worked hard for himself. As the saying goes: he built a better mousetrap and the world recognized the value of his ideas.

I use Google every day in my work. I deeply appreciate how this yiddische kopf transformed information with his great invention.

8

 Oct 25, 2009 at 02:09 AM Anonymous Says:

That is equivalent to an individual worth 1,000,000 giving about $60 to a charity and getting written up. I understand the million is significant to the recipient and Mr. Brin stated that he is in the process of establishing his trust. This was for amusement purposes only.

9

 Oct 25, 2009 at 01:34 AM Anonymous Says:

Make sure to only give to those who seek to help themselves and don't disparage good honest work!

10

 Oct 24, 2009 at 11:39 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #1  
Anonymous Says:

Shlach Lachm'chu Al Pnei HaMoim Ki B'Roiv Haumim Timtzuany!

Dittos!!

As they say in English, "What goes around, comes around"...

11

 Oct 25, 2009 at 10:47 AM how pathetic Says:

how pathetic! these people have no musagim of what tzedakah is. talk about a drop in the bucket. this guy should be giving away billions. what a kafuy tov. as he himself said, " I would have never had the kinds of opportunities I've had here"...and thats how you show your appreciation? what an embarrassment.

12

 Oct 25, 2009 at 11:04 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #11  
how pathetic Says:

how pathetic! these people have no musagim of what tzedakah is. talk about a drop in the bucket. this guy should be giving away billions. what a kafuy tov. as he himself said, " I would have never had the kinds of opportunities I've had here"...and thats how you show your appreciation? what an embarrassment.

Why are you so quick to condemn someone who gives charity, and how do you know he doesn't give charity to other organizations and causes?

The only one pathetic here is you.

13

 Oct 25, 2009 at 11:05 AM Anonymous Says:

How pathetic! Everyone reading this article is assuming that he only gave money to one organization. We don't know how much money he gave to other organizations. The article is about him acknowledging his connection to HIAS and thanking them by giving some money.

I am reminded of a man who was begging for money & when given an amount that he thought was too small, started complaining about not getting more. The giver said he could always take back the money. That shut the complainer up. The bottom line, to use the old saying, is to not look a gift horse in the mouth.

14

 Oct 25, 2009 at 10:32 AM joe shmoe Says:

Reply to #4  
Shlomo Says:

What's wrong with him giving to charities that help ALL people -- Jews and non-Jews alike??? Oh, I forgot; in our little Judeocentric world nobody else really counts.

just natural, when your close relative is suffering it hurts you NATURALLY more than somebody you never saw. that's just a fact. if you can say that you care just as much about people you never saw than your relatives, I'll listen to you. up until then I'll just consider you another 1 of our beloved self hating jews. Cant stand when people wait for the moment to pounce on another yid just to have the feeling of I got even, I'm smarter, I think out of the box. (bias has the same effects as "being in the box".

15

 Oct 25, 2009 at 11:37 AM Midwestern Guy Says:

Reply to #13  
Anonymous Says:

How pathetic! Everyone reading this article is assuming that he only gave money to one organization. We don't know how much money he gave to other organizations. The article is about him acknowledging his connection to HIAS and thanking them by giving some money.

I am reminded of a man who was begging for money & when given an amount that he thought was too small, started complaining about not getting more. The giver said he could always take back the money. That shut the complainer up. The bottom line, to use the old saying, is to not look a gift horse in the mouth.

You're "reminded" of a man? This happens every single day where I live, as mishulachim go door-to-door on their tours to harass regular people.

16

 Oct 25, 2009 at 11:47 AM MK Says:

Reply to #4  
Shlomo Says:

What's wrong with him giving to charities that help ALL people -- Jews and non-Jews alike??? Oh, I forgot; in our little Judeocentric world nobody else really counts.

I'd love to be proven wrong, Shlomo, but can you name a single non_jewish charity that you gave money to in the last year, and I don't mean getting rid of your unwanted change into the pushka at the pharmacy.

I'm aware that you could lie about this, but on the honor system, tell me the names and amounts you've given.

Oh, and if it's not too much trouble, maybe tell me if you give ten % of income to charity as well.

Even our treifeneh Jewish charities.

17

 Oct 25, 2009 at 03:12 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #4  
Shlomo Says:

What's wrong with him giving to charities that help ALL people -- Jews and non-Jews alike??? Oh, I forgot; in our little Judeocentric world nobody else really counts.

There are many more non-Jews in the global population. They generally, and understandibly so, do not give to specifically Jewish causes but donate to medical research (which benefit us all), their church possibly and some shelters. It is up to the smaller Jewish community to look after our own organizations and causes first (such as Jewish shelter or Jewish soup kitchen) after all, if it won't be us no one else is looking out for our specific Jewish causes. There is plenty non-Jewish gelt to support hospitals and other non-Jewish causes.

18

 Oct 25, 2009 at 04:45 PM PMO Says:

Reply to #5  
Eli Says:

There's nothing wrong with providing help to all people, and it's very admirable. That being said, there's no question that according to Halacha, Jewish causes are supposed to benefit from your charity first. (Aniyei ircha kodmim, etc., etc.)

We should be careful how we apply halochos of charity. Is it more important to buy new bookcases for a beis medrash or feed a starving non-Jewish child? Is it more important to purchase another sefer Torah for a shul that already has 20, or get life-saving vaccines to children on the other side of the world?

The answers are not so simple.

19

 Oct 25, 2009 at 05:37 PM OMG Says:

Reply to #16  
MK Says:

I'd love to be proven wrong, Shlomo, but can you name a single non_jewish charity that you gave money to in the last year, and I don't mean getting rid of your unwanted change into the pushka at the pharmacy.

I'm aware that you could lie about this, but on the honor system, tell me the names and amounts you've given.

Oh, and if it's not too much trouble, maybe tell me if you give ten % of income to charity as well.

Even our treifeneh Jewish charities.

Okay I am not Shlomo, but I give to the Red-Cross every two weeks from my paycheck also every year I give to Jerry’s children and I gave to the Hilary campaign, and for the general election I gave to Obama campaign and last but not least I regularly give to my local animal shelter, and if you wonder, yes I give 10% of my earnings, if I included my Temple dues and Sunday school and sleep away camp (I send her for religious purpose) then I am way over the 10% threshold.

20

 Oct 25, 2009 at 06:38 PM Shlomo Says:

Reply to #16  
MK Says:

I'd love to be proven wrong, Shlomo, but can you name a single non_jewish charity that you gave money to in the last year, and I don't mean getting rid of your unwanted change into the pushka at the pharmacy.

I'm aware that you could lie about this, but on the honor system, tell me the names and amounts you've given.

Oh, and if it's not too much trouble, maybe tell me if you give ten % of income to charity as well.

Even our treifeneh Jewish charities.

Yes, I give to what you call non-Jewish" charities, only here's the rub: they're charities that provide aid and assistance to ALL people, not just non-Jews, Even charities that originate in ecclesiastical setings - -Catholic, Eposcopal, etc. -- are non-discrimanatory. A Catholic soup kitchen or a Methodist hospice will feed or house anyone who's needy. The people who contribute to them, the people who administer them, and the people who run them do not care about the background of the individuals they help.
This will come as a shock to those of us who never venture beyond our daled amos and who mistakenly believe that our non-Jewish neighbors are all seething anti-Semites just waiting to pounce on a Jew, but most of these people eople are decent, most of these people have a live-and-let-live attitude and most would, I'm sorry to say, faster give a helping hand to a Jew than vice-versa. Anyone who doubts that last statement need only ponder the ignorant, hate-filled and bigoted comments left on a regular basis by a certain subset of commenters here.

21

 Oct 25, 2009 at 07:44 PM MK Says:

Reply to #19  
OMG Says:

Okay I am not Shlomo, but I give to the Red-Cross every two weeks from my paycheck also every year I give to Jerry’s children and I gave to the Hilary campaign, and for the general election I gave to Obama campaign and last but not least I regularly give to my local animal shelter, and if you wonder, yes I give 10% of my earnings, if I included my Temple dues and Sunday school and sleep away camp (I send her for religious purpose) then I am way over the 10% threshold.

OMG, I don't doubt that you do that, and many people do. My point was that cynical posters like Shlomo simply like to bash anything that smacks of sectarian Judaism, and will bluster about things that we should all do, while they themselves do nothing of the kind.

22

 Oct 25, 2009 at 10:24 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #15  
Midwestern Guy Says:

You're "reminded" of a man? This happens every single day where I live, as mishulachim go door-to-door on their tours to harass regular people.

I don't consider what misulachim do harassment. I consider it a privilige to be able to give to the needy. May Hashem help that all of us Yidden should be able to be on the giving end and appreciate where the money is coming from.

23

 Oct 25, 2009 at 10:20 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #4  
Shlomo Says:

What's wrong with him giving to charities that help ALL people -- Jews and non-Jews alike??? Oh, I forgot; in our little Judeocentric world nobody else really counts.

Aren't you supposed to help family first?

24

 Oct 25, 2009 at 10:30 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #20  
Shlomo Says:

Yes, I give to what you call non-Jewish" charities, only here's the rub: they're charities that provide aid and assistance to ALL people, not just non-Jews, Even charities that originate in ecclesiastical setings - -Catholic, Eposcopal, etc. -- are non-discrimanatory. A Catholic soup kitchen or a Methodist hospice will feed or house anyone who's needy. The people who contribute to them, the people who administer them, and the people who run them do not care about the background of the individuals they help.
This will come as a shock to those of us who never venture beyond our daled amos and who mistakenly believe that our non-Jewish neighbors are all seething anti-Semites just waiting to pounce on a Jew, but most of these people eople are decent, most of these people have a live-and-let-live attitude and most would, I'm sorry to say, faster give a helping hand to a Jew than vice-versa. Anyone who doubts that last statement need only ponder the ignorant, hate-filled and bigoted comments left on a regular basis by a certain subset of commenters here.

Why are you so filled with anger at your fellow Jew? I live in a very Jewishly populated community. Everyone here is very kind to Jew and non-Jew alike.
Chabad goes a step beyond giving to non-Jewish charities and actually sets up chesed organizations that benefit Jew and non-Jew alike.

I am sure that if you decide to look at Klal Yisroel with a good eye, you will also start seeing only the good. Remember, if your'e out to change the world, the trick to turn the tide is, first to make a change in you.

25

 Oct 26, 2009 at 02:54 AM Allan Says:

I am regularly solicited by a reputable charity that is in NYC and feeds the hungry. The problem for me is that after reading more about them I see that they feed and then preach Christian religious values to those that come to them. I have discontinued donating to them and will now donate to Jewish run soup kitchens. My question is it it wrong to continue supporting that charity because of it's mission of getting their version of religion to those that come since they do help feed the hungry?

26

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