Officials of UJA-Federation of New York are taking a cautiously optimistic view of Birthright Israel, the $300 million effort to provide a free, 10-day trip to Israel for diaspora youth.
“We share their goals and look forward to the opportunity to sit down with the Birthright leadership to learn the specifics of the project as it evolves,” said John Ruskay, UJA-Federation’s chief operating officer.
Birthright Israel, the ambitious and controversial project to provide a free 10-day trip to Israel for diaspora youth, is planning to send as many as 7,000 college students in January and February: even as organizers await the financial backing they counted on for the $300 million enterprise.
For the last quarter-century, Jewish Renewal has been a grassroots, anti-establishment movement embraced by Jews searching for spirituality in their lives. Now, itís becoming mainstream.
One of the four pillars of the new United Jewish Communities is being called Jewish Renaissance and Renewal. Its 36-member committee is slated to meet in Washington next month to develop ways to make Jewish life more meaningful. Because it is to be the committee's first meeting, it is unclear which areas it plans to address.
Birthright Israel, the unprecedented offer of a free 10-day trip to Israel for 6,000 Jewish college students worldwide, has met with such a huge response that three of the 14 organizations sponsoring trips have stopped taking applications.
Funding for the January trip is available for 5,000 students from North America but Moshe Margolin, vice president of educational services for Birthright Israel, North America, said that based on the response to date, "we will significantly exceed 15,000 applications."
Michael Steinhardt is never satisfied.
That’s what drives some of those who work with him crazy at times. But it’s also what drives his success as a businessman and major philanthropist.
While much of the Jewish community, here and in Israel, has been heralding birthright israel — the audacious project he helped found to give every young Jew in the world a free trip to Israel — as the most exciting and successful of efforts to increase Jewish identity, Steinhardt has been grumbling that it’s not enough.
Jerusalem — I attended the biggest Mega-Event ever for Birthright Israel last Sunday night, with 7,500 screaming participants gathered at an outdoor amphitheater near here, and my ears are still ringing.
by Gary Rosenblatt
Editor And Publisher
When Natan Sharansky was told during his visit to New York last week that John Lennon’s song, “Imagine,” was the unofficial anthem of the recent Birthright Mega-Event in Israel — with thousands of young Jews from around the world linking arms as they sang it reverentially — he was upset, but not surprised.
The popular birthright israel program that has brought 40,000 college-age students to Israel in the last three years narrowly averted a funding crisis this week. The Israeli cabinet restored much of the $14 million the Finance Ministry had proposed eliminating as part of the government's emergency budget plan. Had all the money been cut, it may have forced the end of the project.
"It's encouraging to see that the Israeli leadership recognizes the importance of its role in the birthright israel program for world Jewry," said Marlene Post, chairman of the organization.
When it was launched in late 1999, amid much fanfare, birthright israel offered every Jew 18 to 26 a free, 10-day trip to Israel if they had never been there on an educational trip with their peers. But now, after nearly 50,000 Jews have taken advantage of the offer, restrictions are being quietly imposed.
Organizers are now telling those who are in a "full-time, exclusively Jewish studies program that they are not eligible," according to Gideon Mark, the program's international director of marketing.
Birthright israel is receiving high marks for its success in bringing thousands of Jewish young adults to Israel on free 10-day trips. But is it receiving sufficient funding?
It seems that one of birthright's three primary partners, the United Jewish Communities, is having fund-raising problems that could have an adverse effect on the 2-year-old program, sources tell The Jewish Week.