Learning from Taglit-Birthright Israel: An Academic Conference

Later this month, The Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University will host Learning from Taglit-Birthright Israel, the first academic conference to examine what scholars, practitioners, and policy makers can learn from Taglit-Birthright Israel, the largest single educational program in the Jewish world today. Since it was launched in 1999, Taglit has brought nearly 300,000 Diaspora young adults to Israel and involved another 60,000 Israeli peers. By expanding the number and variety of scholars and public policy intellectuals engaged in the examination of Taglit, the conference will further develop the study of Taglit as a social experiment in educational innovation and elaborate on a wide variety of substantive issues including the following:

  • The impact of Taglit on American Jewry and Jewish culture
  • Taglit’s potential contributions to educational and social theory
  • The encounter between young adults from the Diaspora and their Israeli peers as an inter-cultural experience

In a conversation with eJP, Professor Leonard Saxe, chair of the conference and director of the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies and the Steinhardt Social Research Institute at Brandeis University said, “Birthright Israel is becoming normative – a rite of passage for Diaspora young adults. It is important to understand its impact and to consider what it can teach us about engaging young adults in their heritage and how we can help the next generation develop meaningful lives. We want to examine Birthright Israel through the lens of multiple disciplines and consider what we can learn about education, identity formation, and the connection of Diasporans to a homeland.”

The conference will bring together more than 75 scholars, researchers, practitioners, and policy makers from Israel, Europe, and North America.

Distinguished scholars representing education, psychology, sociology and history are among the participants; the group also includes emerging scholars as well as senior figures. Keynote addresses will be delivered by Rabbi Irving (Yitz) Greenberg, President Emeritus, Jewish Life Network/Steinhardt Foundation and Lee Shulman, President Emeritus, The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education Emeritus, Stanford University.

The conference is co-sponsored by the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies, the Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education, and the Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies at Brandeis University. Additional academic co-sponsors include the Henrietta Szold Institute; The Melton Centre for Jewish Education, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem; NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development; and the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies.

Additional conference information can be found here.

Funding has been provided by a consortium of foundations and federations including: Adelson Family Foundation; Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies; The AVI CHAI Foundation, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston (CJP), The Jacobson Family Foundation. The Jewish Agency for Israel, The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), The Klarman Family Foundation, The Mandell L. and Madeleine H. Berman Foundation, Rothschild Foundation Europe, The Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life, and United Jewish Communities of MetroWest New Jersey.