NET WORTH: $3.6 billion
SOURCE OF WEALTH: Director, Producer, cofounder of DreamWorks Pictures
JEWISH FUNDING AREAS: Arts, Culture & Media; Service & Social Justice; Holocaust Education and Survivor Aid
OVERVIEW: Using a portion of the profits from Schindler's List and later Munich and Lincoln, Steven Spielberg established and continues to fund the Righteous Persons Foundation. The foundation supports a range of innovative approaches to strengthening Jewish identity and community in the United States and to preserving the memory and lessons of the Holocaust. Righteous Persons Foundation focuses especially on Jewish arts, culture and media. The foundation has a strong web presence with clear guidelines for grantseekers. Spielberg is clearly influenced by his Jewish heritage, and once said that a rabbi told him that if he "puts his name on everything, it will go unrecognized by God,” which is probably why, according to him, eighty percent of his giving is anonymous.
BACKGROUND: After failing to get into USC film school, Steven Spielberg got his start as an unpaid intern in the editing department of Universal. The list of films Spielberg has directed and produced includes Jaws, E.T., Jurrassic Park, Indiana Jones, Schindler’s List, The Color Purple and Saving Private Ryan.
RIGHTEOUS PERSONS FOUNDATION: In 1994, on the heels of Holocaust drama Schindler's List, Spielberg decided to donate his portion of the film’s profits to create Righteous Persons Foundation. Since its founding, the foundation has made more than $100 million in grants. The foundation is interested in supporting "Jewish identity and community in the United States and to preserving the memory and lessons of the Holocaust." It also has a particular interest in the development of Jewish arts, culture and media, which makes sence given Spielberg's stratospheric career in the entertainment industry. The foundation runs several initiatives, including The Jewish New Media Innovation Fund (JNMIF), a collaboration of the Jim Joseph Foundation, Righteous Persons Foundation, and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. The Fund supports projects that offer "innovative ways of harnessing new digital media tools and technologies to enhance the efforts to engage young people in Jewish life."
Grantees include United States Holocaust Museum, JCC Manhattan's Jewish Film Presenter's Network, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, and Kevah, an outfit that helps Jews connect to classical Jewish texts.
The foundation and Spielberg are also interested in Holocaust education, though this is not as much of a priority as it was in years past. In 1994, Spielberg established the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education to videotape and preserve interviews with survivors and other witnesses of the Holocaust. The Institute currently has some 53,000 video testimonies.
Another effort worth mentioning is the Fund for Coexistence, which supports efforts focused in the United States and the Middle East to leverage media and technology that promote understanding and "humanize the other."
LOOKING FORWARD: With a net worth of over $3 billion, Spielberg likely has a significant amount of giving left to do. Supporting the Jewish community is a top priority and this should continue in the coming years. For more about this funder, read our Glitzy Giving profile of Steven Spielberg.