Schusterman Foundation is Not Alone

Response to Stephen Muss’ article Needed: a Three-Legged Stool of Israel Experiences, June 14, 2011
by Deborah Coltin

Leading the way in teen travel to Israel is the Robert I. Lappin Charitable Foundation, whose mission is helping to keep our children Jewish. Robert Israel Lappin, pioneer of the fully subsidized teen Israel experience, created the Robert I. Lappin Youth to Israel Adventure (Y2I) in 1971, as a way to build Jewish pride in teens, connect them to Israel, and imbue in them a love of and responsibility for our Jewish Family.

There is no better bang-for-the-buck than the teen Israel experience. The Foundation has repeatedly called upon and challenged Jewish philanthropists to fund the fully subsidized teen Israel experience as arguably the most successful approach to Jewish continuity. Yet, our calls go unanswered. There is a misconception amongst funders that if something is free, it is not valued. Our decades of experience, and those of birthright israel, prove otherwise.

In 1996 Y2I became the precursor to birthright israel, when Mr. Lappin made the bold move to fully subsidize the teen Israel experience. Y2I is, to the best of our knowledge, the most successful community teen Israel experience in the country, with more than 60% of the identified pool of teens (high school sophomores and juniors) participating in Y2I. Our anecdotal data and results from a survey the Foundation conducted in 2005, reveal that Y2I is succeeding in its mission in a more cost effective way than Jewish day school and overnight Jewish camp.

Y2I is much more than a life-changing Israel experience. Y2I includes pre and post trip Israel education programs for teens and parents, community service, and a five-day mifgash with Israeli teens from the School for Young Ambassadors in Petach Tikvah.

Since teens come from 23 cities and towns on the North Shore of Massachusetts, Y2I builds community more successfully than any other Jewish program, bar none. If it were not for Y2I, Jewish teens in our community would never have the opportunity to meet.

The benefits of Y2I are felt long after teens return from Israel, as measured by their engagement in post-trip Jewish learning, by their involvement in Jewish youth groups, and by their Jewish activities during and after their college years. Y2I recently joined forces with AIPAC to include its teen leadership and pro-Israel lobby activities as part of Y2I.

More than 2,200 people proudly call themselves Y2I alumni. Now in its second generation, Y2I is a successful model of a program that is easily replicable in any Jewish community, needing only the generosity of funders. The Foundation is a founding-member organization of Lapid, supporting calls on the government of Israel to fund teen Israel experiences at the same level as birthright israel and MASA. But, this could take years to achieve, and the American Jewish community cannot afford to wait.

We add our voice to those of Stephen Muss and the Schusterman Foundation, calling upon Jewish philanthropists to invest in our Jewish Family and in Israel by funding community teen Israel experiences across the country.

Y2I has received the accolades of Prime Minister Netanyahu, JAFI’s chairman Natan Sharansky, and a host of Israeli officials and lay leaders who are grateful for the vision and generosity of Robert Lappin, and for the generosity of funders and the Jewish Federation of the North Shore, who donate hundreds of thousands of dollars every year to keep Y2I going after the Madoff fraud nearly canceled the program by wiping out the Foundation’s assets of eight million dollars, and tens of millions of dollars of the Lappin Family. The Foundation would like nothing more than for Jewish communities to replicate Y2I and experience the amazing and important benefits of this life-changing program. We are available to share our expertise, passion and love.

Deborah Coltin is the Executive Director of the Robert I. Lappin Charitable Foundation, headquartered in Salem, Massachusetts. She can be reached at 978-740-4428, or by email at dcoltin@rilcf.org. Visit the Foundation’s website at rilcf.org.