Contact: Jason Edelstein, (510) 239 – 1102
SAN DIEGO, CA (June 18, 2014) – Professionals who engage young adults in Jewish life convened earlier this week to learn how they could build off the unique educational experience of a Birthright Israel trip in their home communities. The two-day conference, hosted by NEXT: A Division of Birthright Israel Foundation, gathered a local contingent of the NEXTwork, the only national network of engagement professionals and leaders who work directly with Birthright Israel alumni and young Jewish adults across the country.
“During Birthright Israel trips, participants explore areas of Jewish identity and community in a way that is accessible, inclusive, and thoughtful,” says Morlie Levin, CEO of NEXT: A Division of Birthright Israel Foundation. “When Birthrighters return home, they often want to continue this type of personally meaningful Jewish learning and exploration. We help engagement professionals and leaders draw on these values and Birthright Israel’s educational principles to create dynamic programming for young Jewish adults at home.”
This NEXTwork Convening brought together professionals from Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange County, and other parts of the region to teach them how to connect the principles of the Birthright Israel educational platform with post-trip engagement strategies in their home communities. Attendees learned how to infuse experiential education, a key component of every Birthright Israel trip, into the context of their own young adult programs. In addition, NEXT showcased attendees’ own local programs that successfully integrate Birthright Israel’s educational principles, such as a “person-centered” approach to engagement and a “culture of ideas” through discussion and reflective thinking.
“Engagers are incredibly creative and passionate about their work with young Jewish adults,” says Adam Pollack, Senior Director of NEXT’s Western region. “It is our job to help translate this into effective engagement. After last year’s convening, engagers took successful strategies they learned and implemented them in their own communities. Knowledge sharing through a strong network is exactly what’s needed to engage the hundreds of thousands of Birthright Israel alumni and their peers throughout the country.”
As a strong cohesive network, the NEXTwork offers the opportunity for engagers to connect with each other, learn from experts, and share ideas about engaging young Jewish adults. In the past two years, the NEXTwork has grown to more than 250 individuals across the country representing more than 160 diverse organizations.
“I am so grateful for the time and resources that NEXT invests in the professionals who work with Jewish young adults,” says Annie Lascoe, West Coast Regional Director of Masa Israel Journey. “So often, people in our field feel underrepresented and underappreciated; these convenings give us the opportunity to realize that the global Jewish community values our work and wants to give us the opportunity to become our best professional selves.”
The Western Regional Convening is part of NEXT’s strategy to consult with communities and leaders to create more and relevant opportunities for Birthright Israel alumni and young Jewish adults. This includes sharing information about national young adult engagement trends; best practices for creating programs and do-it-yourself opportunities for Birthrighters; teaching the principles that undergird the successful Taglit-Birthright Israel educational platform; and census-like data about young Jewish adults in communities.
Adds Levin, “With nearly 265,000 Birthrighters in the United States, it will take the collective efforts of organizations and individuals to reach and engage them in Jewish life. Let’s share ideas and continue to think creatively about the most effective ways to tap into the excitement created by the Birthright Israel experience.
NEXT: A Division of Birthright Israel Foundation helps turn ten day trips to Israel into lifelong Jewish journeys. Building on the Birthright Israel experience, NEXT empowers communities, professionals, and Birthrighters themselves to create meaningful Jewish experiences for young adults.