When the initiative to send Jewish young adults on free 10-day trips to Israel was launched in 2000, private philanthropists, the government of Israel and the federation system agreed to share the costs equally. But this year, with the budget for birthright hitting $80.6 million, the federations thus far have contributed only $5.5 million.
In an unprecedented step to cull more money from the UJC system, Bronfman's foundation is setting aside about $1.5 million for local Jewish federations to hire full-time development professionals to raise money for birthright. In addition, the UJC and birthright are discussing the creation of an endowment fund of up to $500 million to fund birthright on a continuous basis.
Bronfman has written a scathing opinion essay deriding the UJC for contributing less than 1 percent of its budget to birthright. He and the other private philanthropists who back birthright say that without more money from the federation system, a program that is widely seen as the most successful Jewish continuity effort cannot keep up with demand....In 2000, 9,462 Jews between the ages of 18 and 26 took the free trips. This year, nearly 36,000 from around the world, mostly North America, are expected to participate, with thousands more on the waiting list.Birthright has cost $314 million over the past eight years. Private philanthropists have contributed $147 million and the Israeli government $75 million. The federation system, birthright sources say, has contributed about $43 million. Additional funding comes from other sources, including the Jewish Agency for Israel.
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