Support Needed for Birthright Israel Program

Gidi Mark. Credit Erez Uzir

Izzy Tapoohi

Inflation and increased travel expenses post -COVID are significantly affecting Birthright Israel’s budget, causing the organization to slash by up to a third the number of participants it can take to Israel in 2023 and beyond.


The Birthright Israel Foundation, the organization’s funding arm, is in conversations with its largest donors to brief them about this development and are confident they will continue supporting Birthright Israel and are hopeful they will increase their contributions.


But a significant shortage remains, and Birthright Israel is now seeking contributions from the wider American-Jewish community to maintain the organization’s provision of the critical program, which offers the gift of a 10-day trip to Jewish young adults, many of whom have never been to Israel. 


In 2022, Birthright will bring a record 35,000 Jewish young adults from around the world to Israel, a number that could be reduced to 23,500 for 2023.


“There is a myth that Birthright Israel is funded by just a few large donors, including the Government of Israel and the Adelson Family Foundation, but that is not the case,” said Birthright Israel Foundation’s President and CEO, Izzy Tapoohi. “Birthright Israel Foundation’s support comes from donors at all levels, from alumni, parents and mid and large donors, but we need more people to support this program, whether for the first time or at increased levels and today we call upon the entire Jewish community to help us maximize the number of future participants who can begin their Jewish journey on this critical program.” 


Expanding Birthright Israel’s reach, rather than reducing it, is vital now, when young Jews are being bombarded with anti-Semitic and anti-Israel sentiments on social media and on college campuses.


But the inflation that has hit much of the global economy, and the rising costs of travel post-COVID, have driven up Birthright Israel’s expenses. Without offsetting donations, thousands of applicants will be denied the chance to experience a Birthright Israel trip, the organization’s officials said.


“The significant cost increases of our program mean that we will not be able to accommodate as many applicants in the coming years, and we know that those who miss out on a Birthright trip are unlikely to travel to Israel at all” said Birthright Israel CEO Gidi Mark. “There has never been a more critical need for Birthright Israel than now. Without a major immediate increase in fundraising, we will be hard-pressed to have the positive effect we’ve had on many individuals – and that will inevitably impact American Jewish organizations that are used to seeing enthusiastic young adults return from Israel and take major roles in the Jewish community. On average, nearly 60% of communal professionals in the US are Birthright alumni.”


Extensive research has revealed that Birthright participants have a significantly stronger connection to Israel and a far deeper Jewish identity than non-participants. A recent Brandeis University analysis of the Pew study found that Birthright participants are substantially more likely to marry Jews and raise their children Jewish.

“Birthright is a winning formula for a vibrant Jewish future,” said Mark. “Participants return to their communities more educated about Israel, more involved in Jewish life, prouder of who they are as Jews. They feel part of their communities and tend to make up to 40 new Jewish and Israeli friends from their trip. Birthright is the key to ensure a stronger Jewish community.”


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