Miriam Adelson (born 10 October 1945) is a billionaire Israeli-American physician. She became a donor to conservative political causes in the United States and Israel after her marriage to American business magnate Sheldon Adelson in 1991. The Adelsons contributed to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, inauguration, defense fund against the Mueller investigation into Russian meddling, and 2020 campaign.
She is currently the publisher of the Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom. She is also a voting member of the University of Southern California’s board of trustees.
In 2008, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars of the Smithsonian Institution presented Miriam and Sheldon Adelson with the Woodrow Wilson Award for Corporate Citizenship. She was granted honorary citizenship of Jerusalem in 2013. Donald Trump awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2018.
Adelson, through her majority ownership of Las Vegas Sands, is the world’s 44th richest person, fifth richest woman, and richest Israeli as of June 2021, with an estimated net worth of US$29.6 billion according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
In 2022, Adelson dropped to 7th position with an estimated net worth of $27.5 billion.
Here are five things to know about Miriam Adelson:
She’s hands on at her methadone clinics.
Adelson, 73, grew up in the Israeli city of Haifa and attended Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Medical School. She later went on an exchange program to Rockefeller University in New York, where she focused on treating drug addiction, which became her specialty.
Adelson visits her treatment clinic near a run-down strip mall in Las Vegas on a regular basis. She opened the clinic in 2000, seven years after opening one in Tel Aviv, which she also visits when the couple is in the country. She will put on a white coat and treat patients herself.
She combines treatment with research at Rockefeller University, where she worked in the late 1980s and currently serves on the board. Mary Jane Kreek, who developed methadone as a treatment for heroin addiction, was her mentor there.
“The clinic was doing treatment and research from the beginning,” Adelson said in a 2016 interview at her Las Vegas clinic. “I can contribute to the understanding of addiction, and we can save lives.”
Adelson’s research has looked into whether there is a genetic component to addiction, not just to drugs but to behavior as well, such as gambling and the internet.
She liked Ted Cruz.
According to all accounts, the Adelsons are close collaborators in both philanthropy and politics. (They married in 1991, after she divorced fellow physician Ariel Ochshorn.)
During the 2016 campaign, the couple had a friendly and sometimes public disagreement about which of the more establishment Republican presidential candidates they preferred. Sheldon Adelson was leaning toward Florida Senator Marco Rubio, while Miriam Adelson preferred Texas Senator Ted Cruz. Miriam appeared to be winning the argument before they settled on Trump — they maxed out on individual donations to Cruz’s campaign.
The Adelsons didn’t quite crown Trump as the nominee; in fact, Trump clashed with Sheldon Adelson for a time. However, Sheldon Adelson solidified Trump’s front-runner status with a May 2016 appeal to his fellow Jewish Republicans to support the presumptive nominee and make it easier for Trump to defeat Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
She modeled a Las Vegas Jewish school on her Israeli high school.
Adelson explains how her education at the renowned Hebrew Reali School in Haifa helped shape the Adelson Educational Campus, a Jewish day school in Las Vegas.
Morning prayers are not held on campus, as they are not in Israel’s secular school system.
“We don’t force the kids to pray or wear a yarmulke,” she explained. The students instead sing “Hatikvah,” Israel’s national anthem. “Be proud of who we are,” she said of her school’s philosophy.
Students in the upper classes are expected to have a major, just as Adelson did when she was a student at Reali decades ago.
She also insists on mandatory drug tests for everyone — students and staff.
“I don’t want a situation where one of the people on our campus is selling drugs,” Adelson told JTA. “I wanted to show the kids we are all being tested in order to find one or two that would never come forward in the early stage. We want to find them, to help them. It’s like a cancer, addiction. It’s much easier to treat it in earlier stages.”
She wants American Jews to be more like Israelis.
A lot of what the Adelsons fund, including Birthright, the Las Vegas school, and the Israeli American Council, is aimed at instilling Israeli Jewish sensibilities in the American Jewish body politic.
Much of the media coverage of the IAC has centered on Sheldon Adelson’s desire for it to supplement, if not completely replace, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee as the preeminent pro-Israel voice in the United States. Sheldon Adelson’s politics align with those of AIPAC, as do those of the IAC.
Attend an IAC conference, however, and the most important takeaway is that the agenda is overwhelmingly focused on making Israelis feel more at home in an American Jewish community that does not always share Israeli sensibilities. Israelis prefer to gather around food and culture, while American Jews gather around the synagogue.
Those “how do we integrate?” side sessions have Miriam Adelson’s imprint, and she frequently participates in them, in both Hebrew and English.
According to Adelson, American Jews can learn a lot from Israelis, particularly about how to be pro-Israel.
“The Israeli Americans can help Israel,” she said. “The Jews, as we know from all the history, have many enemies, suffering a lot of hatred, sometimes within our own people. I think the Israeli Americans, the majority of them, love Israel, respect their homeland, many of them served in the Israeli army. Altogether if we are united we can be a major force to help Israel.”
She loves scouting.
Adelson, a former member of the Israeli scouting organization Tzofim, now serves on the board of its American branch and has committed resources to expanding its reach not only to the children of Israeli Americans, but also to American Jewish children.
“If you talk about the Israeli community, you should talk about the Israeli scouts,” she said. “This is really causing attachment between Israelis in America and Israelis in Israel,” says one Israeli.