Question: What’s Blue and White even though it’s on fire? Answer: The participants of most Birthright programs.
Approximately 350,000 Jews from across the globe have gone on the 10-day all expenses paid Birthright trip to Israel since the program started in 2000.
For some reason, the people who crafted the Birthright-Taglit program 13 years ago pretty much got it right. Research shows that young Jews who go on Birthright trips are:
- 46 percent more likely to feel very much connected to Israel than their counterparts who applied but did not go, and the Taglit effect was greatest among participants from relatively weaker Jewish backgrounds.
- 28 percent more likely to report feeling very confident in their ability to explain Israel’s current situation than their counterparts who did not go.
- 51 percent more likely to marry a Jewish person.
- 28 percent more likely to rate marrying a Jew as somewhat or very important
The program is so popular that each year the program receives approximately 35,000 applications for about 20,500 spots.
But over this past year, according to a report in Haaretz, Israel’s Prime Minister’s Office, the Jewish Agency, and Jewish leaders, have developed a plan to further strengthen ties between Israel and Diaspora Jewish communities.
Jewish Agency Director-General Alan Hoffmann said the plan to increase those ties is based on four key components: Expanding Israeli presence on university campuses abroad; increasing the number of Israeli educators in Jewish institutions abroad; increasing the number of young immigrants in professions deemed required for the Israeli economy; and increasing participation of young Jewish adults in Israel experience programs.
While the new plan won’t be officially announced until October at a conference in Jerusalem, Hoffman divulged that one of the goals is to eliminate the long waiting list for Birthright trips.
For the 2013 Birthright program, 11,862 applicants were unable to participate because of budgetary restrictions. For the 2012 program, more than 17,000 were turned away.
According to Hoffmann, the new plan also includes providing special incentives for young high-tech professionals to immigrate to Israel.
“Looking at the Israeli economy over next 10-15 years, one of the inhibiting factors is that in some of the most successful areas, including high-tech, we are not generating enough trained people to meet the expanding needs of the economy,” Hoffmann told Haaretz.
The new initiative is expected to begin as a pilot program sometime in early 2014, and become fully operational in 2015.
The cost is estimated at $300 million, which will be financed much like the present Birthright program: Israel covers one-third of the expenses and donors cover the rest.
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.
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