A record 40,108 eligible Jewish young adults in North America applied to participate in a Taglit-Birthright Israel trip this summer. Registration for the trip, which closed yesterday morning [after only seven days], represents both the highest number of applicants from North America and the shortest registration period for summer trips.
When registration opened to new applicants online on Feb 15th, 1,000 individuals began signing up within the first minute.
The number of applicants still far outpaces the funding capacity of Taglit-Birthright Israel for the trips. The organization estimates it currently has funding to send 15,000 young adults of the 40,000 registered from North America for trips between May and August. In all, Taglit-Birthright Israel plans to bring 33,000 young adults, from more than 50 countries, to Israel during 2011 on summer and winter trips.
Taglit-Birthright Israel has set the goal of sending 51,000 young Jewish adults annually by 2013, which means that one in every two Jewish young adults worldwide would participate in a Birthright Israel trip.
In January, the Government of Israel announced it would contribute $100 million in funding over the next three years to assist Birthright Israel achieve that goal. Birthright needs to match the Israeli government’s increased commitment and raise corresponding funds from individual donors. This is a challenge for the donors of the Birthright Israel Foundation – whose numbers have grown very significantly by 10,000 in the last two years, despite the economic downturn – as well as from partner organizations, the Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Agency for Israel.
The data from the registration shows that Birthright Israel applicants come predominantly from Reform or unaffiliated backgrounds. Asked to describe their religious affiliation, 41% of applicants said they were Reform; 26% said “just Jewish”; 21%, Conservative; 4%, Orthodox and 8%, other. Fifty seven percent of applicants are ages 18 through 21; while 43% are age 22 through 26.