Since its inaugural trip in the winter of 2000, more than 340,000 participants ages 18-26 have traveled to Israel for the first time through Taglit-Birthright Israel. The 10-day excursions have attracted people from 62 countries, bringing together Jews from virtually every cultural and socio-economic background in the Diaspora.
A $20,000 fund to advance Jewish innovation in Australia was launched by the ROI Community, a global network of young Jewish innovators, and Australian Jewish Funders.
Taglit-Birthright Israel has contributed more than $535 million to Israel's economy since the trip's inception in 2000, the organization said.
Lauren Levine is settling in with a group of friends apartment to watch “American Idol,” when a look of panic comes over her face. She rummages around, finds her keys and darts out.“I left the hair thing on,” she says when she returns, breathless, from her own apartment downstairs. “I was straightening Jasmine’s hair before we came up here, and I forgot to turn it off. Wow. That was close.” Levine has wide blue eyes accentuated with sparkly eye shadow, and her voice is spiced with a sense of interested wonder.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has declared May Birthright Israel month. Bloomberg will issue a formal proclamation at an event Wednesday evening in New York City set to be attended by more than 1,000 alumni of the free Israel trip for Jews aged 18 to 26.
J Street is organizing its own Israel trip for Jewish college students after Birthright Israel declined to partner with it. In a letter to J Street supporters, the organization announced that its campus arm, J Street U, would organize a trip to Israel and the West Bank for 10-15 student leaders this summer.
No one has gone unscathed by the convulsions of the global economy. Even the wealthy are losing money -- and if they cut their charitable giving, it is likely to ripple across the Jewish nonprofit sector
In a move that echoes this fusion of cultural exposure and music, the Taglit-Birthright Israel Alumni Association, recently rebranded as Birthright Israel Next, has launched the Israelity Tour -- a seven-city West Coast concert extravaganza aimed at exposing young American Jews to Israeli culture, promoting the free 10-day educational trips to Israel for 18- to 26-year-olds, as well as cultivating the connections alumni of the trip have already made to the Holy Land and one another.
Young American Jews are increasingly alienated from Israel, according to a report released last week.
For much of his life, Lawrence Mudgett didn't need Judaism. He had football. But when the 6-foot-6, 250-pound sophomore was declared ineligible for the NCAA at the beginning of the school year, he began searching for another niche.
As a participant on Birthright Israel's 2002-2003 winter programs, Mudgett found what he was looking for.
"Going to Israel changed me. It's opened up so many doors," said the UCSB sophomore. "Just being part of the Jewish community and being involved in Hillel helps fill the void of not being on a team and not having that camaraderie."
Exactly two weeks before a controversial last-minute presidential pardon made him a household name in the United States, Marc Rich was sitting in the VIP section at a mega-event for Birthright Israel in Jerusalem.
Riva Saker is the kind of Jew for whom Birthright Israel was created. The product of a Jewish mother and a Catholic father, Saker was raised with very little Jewish identity. "I think we only did Shabbas, in my entire lifetime, about six times."