Birthright Israel & Onward Israel Merge, Strengthening Jewish Diaspora Ties with Israel

Birthright Israel, the largest educational tourism organization in the world and Onward Israel, the leading provider of mid-length immersive experiences for young adults in Israel, have merged. Combining these two organizations strengthens Israel-diaspora ties by providing expanded opportunities for more Jewish young adults to participate in travel, study and professional development experiences. 


By merging Birthright Israel’s 10-day educational tours and Excel Fellowship program with Onward’s longer-length internships, study and immersive living experiences, the organization will more effectively be able to reach young Jews around the world with a variety of engaging programmatic options. As a result of the merger, Onward Israel will become a program offered by Birthright Israel with Gidi Mark continuing to serve as International CEO of Birthright. Ilan Wagner, formerly the CEO of Onward Israel, will become Vice President of Onward programs at Birthright Israel. 


“Our primary goal has always been to give every Jewish young adult around the world a trip to Israel in order to help strengthen identity and connection with Israel,” said Mark. “The pandemic has been the greatest challenge we have faced on the road to achieving that goal, but by merging with Onward we take the next great step forward, ensuring that more young people have the opportunity to experience and develop a deeper relationship with Israel and its people.”


Despite the headwinds posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, Birthright Israel is optimistic about 2022 and beyond. Birthright Israel plans to resume trips as soon as it is safe to do so, for individuals who are vaccinated or have received a booster in the last six months. Meanwhile, the organization continues to experience massive enthusiasm for future trips, with tens of thousands of individuals pre-applying to participate.


Birthright Israel is the largest educational tourism organization in the world. It has sent over 750,000 young Jewish adults from more than 68 countries on a free 10-day educational tour in Israel. Of these, 115,000 are Israelis, most of whom are IDF soldiers, students, and young professionals. Birthright Israel has a steadfast partnership with the government of Israel and Jewish communities from around the world.


Onward Israel, originally launched with the Jewish Agency for Israel in 2012, and which works in close partnership with Masa Israel Journey, has engaged more than 12,000 young people in immersive and transformative work, live and study experiences. Its objective is to increase the number of participants in unmediated, immersive identity-building experiences in Israel, with a focus on young adults who are less engaged, to inspire and motivate them to embrace their Jewishness and to strengthen Israel’s standing on the college campus and in the community.