from The Jerusalem Post:
Taglit-birthright Israe turned ten this year. From its start as the brainchild of a handful of American donors and Israeli politicians and the target of skepticism and scorn, it has grown into one of the largest and most admired educational projects in Jewish history.
… Birthright’s success has been a surprise to many. A tourist-like trip to Israeli landmarks and museums was not expected to have the effect discovered in careful academic studies conducted at Brandeis University: Alums beginning to explore their identities and engage in their communities as never before.
Perhaps this pessimistic expectation is the reason that Jewish organizations and foundations have been late to use birthright as the platform it could be.
… The challenge birthright poses to the Jewish world is how to transform their success into something of an altogether different scale. When a quarter-million young Jews have visited Israel at the Jewish people’s expense, it is a tragic waste that their Jewish communities make little effort to continue their engagement.
Ten years, 260,000 Israeli and Diaspora participants, countless friendships, Jewish conversations and academic studies – and the question remains: Where’s the follow-up?
[eJP note: Rabbi Daniel S. Brenner, Executive Director of Birthright Israel NEXT, responds – Birthright Israel NEXT and the Invisible Doubling Effect]