Taglit: A Strategic Asset For the Jewish People

Describing Taglit participants as such, Israeli Minister Isaac Herzog, led off a session early this afternoon at the Herzliya Conference. Joined by Gideon Mark of Birthright, Professor Leonard Saxe of Brandeis University and Knesset member Professor Menahem Ben-Sasson for a session titled, ‘Trends in the Connection of the Diaspora’s Young Generation to Israel’, the focus was on the young demographic being called, the Birthright Israel Generation.

We did learn a few facts. While 3/4 of all participants to date are from North America, a total of 44 countries have been represented since 1999. Bringing 160,000 to Israel so far, an additional 100,000 have been left behind due to lack of space.

According to Professor Saxe, “Taglit is rapidly moving towards achieving a critical mass, perhaps a ‘tipping point’ in its ability to change a generation.” In North America, an estimated 90,000 individuals are currently in each year’s cohort between ages 18 through 26. For those born in 1995 and prior, it is estimated that 25% will participate in a Birthright trip prior to turning 26. For those born in 1996 and later, based on current resources, it is estimated that 1 in 3 will participate in Birthright Israel prior to tapping out at 26. What an incredible success story. What an opportunity for our Jewish community!

Professor Saxe made a few additional points I found of particular interest:

  • Young adults are more connected than previous generations (this is confirmed by survey data and their behavior)
  • Young adults are seeking meaningful connections; their interest in Birthright exceeds availability; their social networks foster both interest and engagement
  • Person to person encounters are at the heart of Diaspora – Israel connections; by framing interaction with Israeli educators and peers, Taglit changed the dynamic of the “experience”
  • This Education must engage the heart, mind and body; Taglit has successfully reconfigured traditional approaches to both the Israel experience and Jewish education. Their success depends on its ability to create education that simultaneously is…

Emotionally stimulating

Intellectually rich and

Behaviorally engaging

thereby successfully adapting an educational strategy to the needs, interests and skills of their target audience

  • Young adults today live in a multi-windowed, virtual world; they are engaged in a search for meaning and connection



I am both fairly knowledgeable and a supportive observer of what this new generation is creating. And while on some level I was aware of this, it was Professor Saxe’s closing remarks that resonated the most:

Institutions Must Adapt or Be Replaced

In part, Taglit has been successful because they have created a new organization. The $64,000 question for other communal institutions, are you ready to engage Taglit participants on the 11th day? Those that have failed in this regard prior to the trips will almost certainly remain unable to connect with then when they return.

I hope the Jewish community is paying attention.


for a participants look at Birthright Day 11, click here
for the official conference summaries:
Menahem Ben-Sasson, Isaac Herzog, Gideon Mark, Leonard Saxe

(updated January 27th)