The Taglit-Birthright Israel program has expanded eligibility for its free 10-day trips to Israel for Jewish young adults ages 18-26 to include teenagers who went on an educational trip to Israel during high school
Birthright’s eligibility guidelines previously stated, “If you have been to Israel before but only with your family or on other personal business, you are still eligible. However, if you have been to Israel as part of a touring group, educational program, study program or an organized extended residential program since you were 12 years old, you are not eligible.”
“I think everybody thought about [the change in the eligibility guidelines] for many years, and everybody wanted to have it,” Noa Bauer, Birthright’s vice president of international marketing, told JNS.org.
“It was a matter of funding, and I think today you see more anti-Israel things on campus, and we realized over the years that people that have been to Israel again have more confidence for talking about Israel, and geopolitics, and anything pertaining to Israel after visiting with Birthright Israel. I think we’re one of the best platforms to do that for college students.”
In the 13-plus years since philanthropists Charles Bronfman and Michael Steinhardt joined forces with the Israeli government, the Jewish Agency for Israel, global Jewish communities, and other philanthropists to fund Birthright, the program has taken about 350,000 young Jews to Israel.
A series of studies by Brandeis University’s Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies have shown that former Birthright participants are 42 percent more likely to feel “very much” connected to Israel compared to people who didn’t go on the trip. Program participants are also more likely to belong to a religious congregation than those who did not attend Birthright, and participants are also slightly more likely than non-participants to make charitable contributions to Jewish or Israeli causes, according to the Cohen Center research.