What is Birthright Israel?
Birthright Israel offers the gift of a free, educational, first-time, 10-day trip to Israel for young Jewish adults between the ages of 18 and 26. The trip allows them to reclaim their birthright. They discover the joy and exuberance of new friends, common purpose and expanded horizons.
The trip has three profound objectives:
• To strengthen each participant’s identity as a Jew.
• To build an understanding, a friendship and a lasting bond with the land and people of Israel.
• To reinforce the solidarity of the Jewish people worldwide.
To date, more than 350,000 young Jewish adults from 64 countries around the world have participated in the Birthright Israel experience. That includes every state and territory in the U.S. and Canada.
What is the difference between Birthright Israel, the Birthright Israel
Foundation and NEXT?
All three organizations work together to support the Birthright Israel experience. Birthright Israel is the organization that accredits individualtrip organizers to run the program. It creates the educational basis of the itineraries, as well as the basic guidelines, standards and security policies by which trip organizers must operate.
The Birthright Israel Foundation raises funding for the trips.
NEXT: A Division of Birthright Israel Foundation connects Birthright Israel trip alumni and their peers with meaningful Jewish living and learning opportunities nationally, locally and in Israel. NEXT also works to create a Jewish community that is ready to receive alumni by investing in and training those who work with young Jewish adults.
“After my trip – and having fully immersed myself in the culture and history of Israel – I truly understand how important my Jewish heritage is to me and what role it will play in my life.”
Participant, Summer 2012
Who are the founders of Birthright Israel?
Birthright Israel was a program founded by Charles Bronfman and Michael Steinhardt in 1999 to address the growing divide between Diaspora Jewish youth and the land and people of Israel.
Who pays for the gift of Birthright Israel?
In addition to strong partnerships with The Jewish Federation, Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) and the Government of Israel, the Birthright Israel Foundation has been enlarging the base of support to include almost 25,000 new donors to the organization. They come from all over North America: from the ranks of Birthright Israel alumni, from their parents, and from the diverse Jewish communities in which they live.
Our donors share their passion and their commitment to the Birthright Israel mission, with the goal of making this trip an accessible rite of passage for every young Jew, regardless of means or ability, from every corner of North America.
The cost of the Birthright Israel trip per participant is $3,000. Birthright Israel pays for round-trip airfare, overnight accommodations, most of the meals and other associated land costs throughout the duration of the trip. A full bus of 40 participants costs $120,000.
How are the trips structured?
The trips take place in two sessions each year. Each session spans a number of months: the winter trips run from December through March, while the spring/summer trips typically run from May through early autumn.
In every session, Birthright Israel works with approximately 20 distinct trip organizers. Each trip organizer must include several core thematic experiences including visiting or touring the following:
• a Jewish historical site
• a Zionist history museum
• a Holocaust remembrance site
• a State national site
• an arts and culture event
• The Western Wall
Some trips may also be associated with a particular community, college campus or special interest such as hiking or journalism; others focus on special needs such as Asperger’s Syndrome and ASL for the hearing impaired.
How do these trips instill a sense of Jewish identity and a kinship with Israel and its people?
The Birthright Israel program takes the crucial first step in forging a meaningful, lifelong relationship among young Diaspora Jews and with Israel and its people.
One of the fundamental components of the program is the “Mifgash,” the meeting between young Israelis and visiting Jewish young adults. To date, more than 60,000 young Israelis, many of whom are active IDF soldiers, have traveled with the participants for five to ten days.
These Israelis join as participants and they build friendships with the other participants through discussions of mutual interests. Both groups develop close and personal connections through this interaction.
How does Birthright Israel gauge the success of these trips?
In October 2012, Brandeis University released an updated study conducted by the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies. The research shows that the Birthright Israel experience has positive long-term effects on these young adults and their choices as they relate to Jewish life and raising families. Among the findings:
• Participants were 23% more likely to view as very important the raising of their children as Jewish.
• 90% described themselves as feeling closer to Israel as a result of their trip.
• Nearly 30% of all participants have visited Israel after their trip which has benefited the Israeli economy.
How does Birthright Israel meet and manage the demand for the trip experience?
This is the enduring challenge that faces the Birthright Israel Foundation. Every success we have and every advance we make raises the stakes and intensifies the need for greater support.
Our most pressing concern is the waitlist. Many applicants do not reapply once they have been waitlisted, because of scheduling conflicts or other personal reasons. For many young adults, this application is their first attempt to connect to their Jewish heritage or community. That such an aspiration should be met with any manner of discouragement presents a huge missed opportunity.
Here are the realities that drive the Birthright Israel Foundation’s work:
• In 2011, over 63,796 young adults applied for 25,181 spots, creating a waitlist of 38,615.
• During registration for the 2011-2012 winter trips, over 23,486 young adults applied within one week for just 13,524 spots.
• Most recently, Birthright Israel received more than 37,319 North American applications for only 18,060 spaces for the summer 2012 trips.
How can I become a part of the Birthright Israel experience?
You can support our work in many ways.
First and foremost, you can give. Your dollars literally make the dream come true by helping to shorten the waitlist.
You can also give your time and share your belief in our vitally important mission. The Birthright Israel Foundation has built a nationwide network of Regional Councils, working with Jewish federations and creating a common awareness of the Birthright Israel experience across North America.
And you can spread the word. Share the joy in giving – and encourage young people to register for trips. Each life we touch is transformed. What this means to Jewish people everywhere is beyond measure.
If you are or know of a Birthright Israel alumni who would like to be one of our trip ambassadors, please let us know. Contact Rachel Lowenstein at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.