A year and a half ago I joined Birthright Israel Foundation as President & CEO. With me I brought a lifetime of business experience and an intense passion for the Jewish people and the State of Israel. In Israel, I saw the Birthright Israel program all over the country as buses drove by on the highway, logos were placed in store windows offering discounts and young people in branded t-shirts and name tags flooded the streets. From my point of view, they all looked like they were having a wonderful time, full of smiles, laughs and comradery. It was only when I came to New York that I truly learned what Birthright Israel is all about.
Whether it was through my professional work at Israel Bonds, at Synagogue on Shabbat or at a gathering with friends, I always found that the increased participation and presence of the next generation of young Jewish adults was primarily because of Birthright Israel. Most of these young Jewish adults were unaffiliated but their 10-day journey in Israel lit a spark in them that left them hungry for more; more community, more connection, more Israel.
Today more than ever our community is facing a challenge. How do we ensure that the organizations, synagogues and the State of Israel we all fought so hard to secure are taken care of and continue to be supported by future generations? We worry about assimilation, intermarriage and BDS across our college campuses. At times, these issues seem insurmountable.
What can we do? How can we help connect our children and grandchildren to our community and our homeland so they feel the same love and pride we do? We cannot resort to a cookie-cutter approach or what worked for us when we were their age. We need to speak to them on their level, engage with them on their own terms, and there is no better way to do that than by providing the gift of Birthright Israel.
If you are looking at your philanthropic support as an investment, there is no greater return on investment than Birthright Israel. Since our inception, we have partnered with the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University to measure the success and impact of this life-changing program. Year after year the results are astounding and reinforce why this program is so important:
- 85% of Birthright Israel participants consider Birthright Israel a life-changing experience.
- Participants are 40% more likely to feel a connection to Israel than non-participants.
- Participants are 54% more likely to say it is very important to marry someone Jewish.
- Alumni of Birthright Israel are 36% more likely to get involved in their Jewish community versus non-participants.
- 30% of participants have returned to Israel.
- Birthright Israel participants pay it forward: they are 30% more likely to donate to Jewish and/or Israeli causes than non-participants
If our community, our people and our homeland matter to you, there is no better investment than Birthright Israel. Our alumni are our children, grandchildren, coworkers, neighbors and friends. Ask them about their experience and I am sure they will tell you the magic words we so often hear, “It changed my life.”
Join us and become a stakeholder in the Jewish future.