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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Birthright program needs money

The popular Birthright program which brings young Jewish people to Israel is short of cash.

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.
Birthright is not just about Israel. Young people who make the trip are more likely to remain involved in the US Jewish community and will "repay the investment" in the long run.
I have three or four modest suggestions for stretching the money:
- Start a study in Israel program that will be funded by tuition. Students will pay less for university or prep school education than they do in the U.S.
- Start a work/tour program that allows young people, especially those with skills, to visit Israel and do various internships here.
- Take a bit of money at least from those who can afford to pay.
- Screen out saboteurs. The Birthright unplugged group is an anti-Zionist group that swindles Birthright donors and Israeli taxpayers out of their money, sending anti-Zionist agitators to Israel to gather materials for anti-Israel propaganda. There is no earthly reason to subsidize this outrage.
Ami Isseroff

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  • I fully agree with the funding tips proposed by Ami. I go to a full tuition scholarship school. It's funded by alumni of the school, "phonathons" which call parents of current students and alumni, but mostly by land the school owns and leases out.

    I've applied for a Birthright Israel trip. I would gladly offer a "donation" of a few hundred dollars to offset the cost of airfare, housing, transportation, etc etc. If I were going for a period longer than 10 days, an internship at an Israeli R&D firm or a semester at the Technion would definitely be an option, but for now it's just a 10-day visit.

    I will let you know what I think of the program when I get back, but from what I've heard it's great, and I wholeheartedly look forward to the experience. So, thank you UJC, Israeli government, and Jews Like You (TM,R,C) and all the other sources of funding for this program - don't be Jewish and give more than 1%, UJC! :)

    P.S. NASA spends 10% of its budget on education. Their mission statement has three parts, part 3: "To inspire the next generation of explorers, as only NASA can!" So, inspire the next wave of immigrants, as only Israel can!

    By Blogger flyashi, At September 23, 2007 8:27:00 AM GMT+00:00  

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