Sunday night was, once again, a Mega event. Then last evening, at the Jerusalem office of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, we gathered for the launch.
Ten Days of Birthright Israel: A Journey in Young Adult Identity
I sat Sunday morning with Professor Len Saxe of Brandeis, co-author of this remarkable story of Birthright Israel. He stressed that the over-riding goal is to tell the story of Birthright Israel. Why 10 days are important and the impact being created.
And, to begin a conversation that needs to be had.
“Although Birthright Israel’s emphasis is on Jewish identity, the program provides a fascinating social laboratory in which to understand young adults religious/ethnic identity and the impact of educational experiences. As a study of ethnic identity formation in postmodern society, it illuminates important lessons about how intensive exposure to ones heritage can be a catalyst for identity formation, as well as how educational programs can be made more engaging and effective.”
The next evening at the launch, co-author Barry Chazan, professor emeritus from Hebrew University, told us definitively, “this is not a trophy book”. In fact, “the book is designed to guide the reader through the educational and cultural journey undertaken by program participants…
our goal is not to promote the program but to explain and critically assess how and why it operates”.
For those of us tuned into Birthright, we know the numbers are impressive: we are presented with, among other facts, the measurable increases in support for Israel; connection to the Jewish people; and a desire to raise one’s children Jewishly.
The success is apparent by the significant growth Birthright has achieved since its 2000 beginnings. In the first year, 10,000 participated. This year, 42,000 are expected. We are also exposed to the profound changes coming to our community when such a large percentage of those eligible become program alumni.
I had a glimpse at some of the research results earlier this year; even so, as I started reading the book this morning I find the lessons to be learned powerful. I will certainly have more to say shortly.
eJewish Philanthropy has decided to provide a direct link to Amazon (located to the right, at the bottom of the sidebar). We have spoken about new books previously, but this is a first. It is a reflection of the importance we place on bringing the lessons learned to the forefront of discussion and for us all to absorb the impact Birthright Israel is making on the next generation.
We understand books are currently being shipped from the publisher; eJewish Philanthropy will donate all commissions earned through this link to Birthright Next.
update: My friend Haviv Rettig from the Jerusalem Post was with us at the launch. Here is what he has to say.
updated June 5: Sunday’s Mega Event, the video.