Michael Steinhardt, the megadonor who helped found Birthright Israel and supports a wide range of Jewish institutions, has been accused of repeatedly propositioning and making sexually inappropriate remarks to women who have approached him as part of their work in Jewish philanthropy or the arts.
The New York Times and ProPublica, the journalism nonprofit, interviewed six women who said that “Steinhardt asked them to have sex with him, or made sexual requests of them, while they were relying on or seeking his support.” A seventh woman has filed a lawsuit.
The seven women claim Steinhardt regularly commented on their bodies and their fertility. The claims were backed up by 16 other people who said they were present when the comments were made.
One woman claimed Steinhardt repeatedly asked her to have sex with him, another said he propositioned her and a female colleague to have a threesome, and a third woman said Steinhardt suggested to her that they have babies together.
Steinhardt, 78, issued a statement denying the accusations, but acknowledged a pattern of comments “that were boorish, disrespectful, and just plain dumb.”
Friends and supporters of Steinhardt are quoted in the article saying they knew of Steinhardt’s often crude comments to male and female subordinates, but that they were surprised that he had crossed the line into sexual harassment.