You may have heard us say this before: Birthright Israel is strengthening the Jewish future. But…
Jewish moms love Birthright Israel for thousands of reasons. They see the impact of the program on their children and now, 20 years since inception, many of our alumni are now moms! So many had a life-changing experience on the trip. With more than 750,000 Birthright Israel alumni across the world, many Jewish children now have moms who are alumni. And, more than anything, the experiences stay with them forever – leaving an everlasting mark on the Jewish future.
Moms who participated in the program show a newfound love for their Jewish identity and pass it on to their children. In fact, according to Brandeis University, 84% of participants who are parents are raising their children Jewish.
What does this tell us? It tells us that because of Birthright Israel, the next generation will have strong ties to their own Jewish identity because of the work we’re doing for the current generation. More so, it is safe to say they will raise their children to uphold the same values, whether they were a mom when they went on the trip, like Sara Myer or became one after. “My son Jake was 18-months-old when my husband, David, and I went on a journey with Birthright Israel. We were the only parents on the trip, but this was something we knew we needed to do – both for ourselves and for our family,” said Sara.
Outside of the immediate pride Birthright Israel participants gain for their people and homeland, their experience remains a constant factor in their lives. Many Jewish moms today can still remember that 3:00 AM wake up call to hike Masada or seeing the Western Wall for the first time. “I vividly remember so many moments of my trip, perhaps because I wanted them to remain etched in my memory so I could relive them over and over,” says Jenna Pfeffer, a 2009 Birthright Israel alumni.
Or take Elizabeth Savetsky, who says the most critical decision she made in her life was to apply for a trip in 2004. Little did she know when she boarded the plane in New York City that everything important to her would be traced back to that moment. “Ira and I have now been married almost 9 years, and we would never have met had it not been for Birthright Israel. I would not be observant had it not been for Birthright Israel. And most importantly, my two daughters, Stella and Juliet, would not be here, were it not for this organization,” says Elizabeth.
The lessons participants learn on the trip never fade either. Erica Eckman thought she missed her chance at Birthright Israel when a trip didn’t work out for her at 25. Then life got busier as she became a mom. Finally, Erica found out the eligibility age requirement for Birthright Israel was changed to 32. She realized this was finally her chance to claim her birthright and went on a trip with her husband.
“It was truly the trip of a lifetime. As a mom of 2-year-old, this trip helps to reinvigorate the fire for our religion and has inspired us to teach the Jewish teachings to our daughter.”
More so, participants of the program are 41% more likely to participate in Jewish social events often and are 93% more likely to be “very much” connected to Israel. Jenna Pfeffer not only remembers her Birthright Israel experience, but she pays it forward as a NYC Young Leadership Council Member. Jenna has played an active role in Birthright Israel Foundation for four years. She says, “if it wasn’t for Birthright Israel, I don’t know if Israel would play such a large role in my adult life.”
She also wants her daughter to experience this gift as well; “It is with great joy and hope that I imagine the day that my daughter, the great-granddaughter of three Holocaust survivors, leaves for her Birthright Israel trip. What adventures will she experience? How will the trip shape her Jewish identity? Will she fall in love with the country as I did? How proud would her great grandparents be? And of course, can she fit her mother into her backpack!?”
And for every Jenna, thousands of other Birthright Israel alumni are also Jewish moms looking forward to the day their children depart on this journey. “I always felt Israel was important, pre, and post Mom life! But I do feel excited, like I’m doing my part, by raising a Jewish son. I’m excited to share the importance of this trip with him one day,” says Lindsay Morrison, 2012 Birthright Israel alumni. Lindsay also shares that her trip influenced how she viewed her own Jewish identity and said, “it carries through to our child and family during every Jewish holiday, tradition, food, culture, and experience we have together.”
For the Jewish moms out there and families who are fortunate to travel to Israel frequently, they still say Birthright Israel was a unique experience for them. Elizabeth Sutton, a 2008 alumni, tells us she’s been taking her kids to Israel since they were in the womb. “I definitely think this is a program that needs to continue to give this opportunity to kids who aren’t connected to be connected. I hope I can send my kids on the program. It was a beautiful way for me to discover Israel.”