Birthright Adapts Eligibility Policy

Many Jewish people across the world dream of going to Israel their whole lives. Taglit-Birthright is an organization that makes that dream a reality for young adults ages 18-26 by gifting them a free 10 day trip to Israel. Until recently, young adults were only eligible for the trip if they had not been to Israel previously on an organized trip and identified themselves as Jewish.

On Jan. 22, the organization made a drastic change to its policy. Young adults who went to Israel on an organized trip while they were in high school before they turned 18 are now eligible to be a part of the program.

In an interview with Jewish News Service, Israeli Minister of Diaspora Affairs Naftali Bennett, chairman of the Taglit-Birthright Israel steering committee said, “[The Jewish people] face complex challenges. We must act to strengthen their Jewish identity and their connection to Israel and to the Jewish people through [Birthright].”

With anti-Israel protesting prevalent on college campuses, the Birthright trip provides pro-Israel students with the tools they need to be major advocates for pro-Israel talk and to combat the issue. Participants’ positive experiences help them understand the importance of Israel’s existence and after going on the trip, these adults are more likely to become a part of Jewish religious organizations in the future.

The new policy change also created lots of turmoil on social media. Many people are arguing that it is not fair to allow people who have been to Israel previously to take up spots that were originally designated to those who have not had the opportunity to go on their own.

One third of the program’s total budget comes from the Israeli government and the rest comes from private Jewish organizations and philanthropists. With the new policy change, Birthright predicts up to 10,000 new participants each year. This means that the biggest issue with the changes they will be facing is managing the budget.

Here at WJ, many students participate in Alexander Muss High School In Israel(HSI), a trip that provides high school students the opportunity to study abroad in Israel for a quarter, semester or a full year. Students gain a better understanding for their Jewish roots by touring the country  and learning about it’s history while simultaneously completing their curriculum for their home school.

Senior Alyse Shulimson recently departed for a two month long trip with HSI.

“I’ve never been to Israel before, so I’m excited to learn about the history of such a unique place, and experience the culture,” said Shulimson.

Previously, participants on this program were not eligible to travel on a Birthright trip, but with the new changes, they are allowed to partake. Shulimson is very excited and surprised about this new development.

“I had just assumed that I would not be able to do birthright once I decided to go on my trip,” said Shulimson. “Birthright is such an incredible opportunity and I’m sure that I’ll want to return to Israel any chance I get.”