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.
There will be 17,000 fewer young people accepted to the Birthright Israel program in 2009 as the organization slashes its budget by $35 million due to increased costs, an unfavorable exchange rate and a decline in fundraising, according to the president of its foundation, Jay Golan.
“Our budget this year was $110 million and it will be $75 million in 2009,” he said. “That will mean we will take 25,000 [participants] worldwide in 2009 compared to 42,000 in 2008.”
About 80 percent of the 25,000 will be from North America.
Top trip provider severs ties, saying his ‘marry Jewish’ message is being stifled.
“Momo” Lifshitz is a legendary figure among Birthright Israel participants, a larger-than-life symbol of the free 10-day trip that more than 200,000 diaspora Jews have used to jumpstart their Jewish identities.