I wasn’t at the Birthright Reunion hosted by Michael and Judy Steinhardt in New York this weekend, so the best I can offer you is this classy promotional video. Look for the Dead Sea scene, my favorite.
With thanks– video sourced from Esther Kustanowitz at My Urban Kvetch.
Best Practice Model
The Steinhardts’ reunion serves as a best practice model for Jewish engagement. Follow up to Birthright participation is a key aspect in embedding the organization’s goals of engaging young Jewish adults in the Jewish community and promoting passion for Israel and Israel connections. Smaller regional events will take place all over the world this fall as local Jewish organizations seek ways to extend the impact of Birthright in the lives of developing Jews.
(Here is an example of the change that Birthright can make in people’s lives. I am an unabashed romantic, but I have heard these stories enough times to believe that it can happen.)
Charles Bronfman’s Competition for Jewish Communal Innovation
You may have heard by now about the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Foundation’s quest for the next big idea in Jewish communal innovation. That’s right: they are holding a contest to encourage revolutionary ideas for revitalizing the Jewish community. (More about this in an upcoming entry on which I’m currently working).
Personally, I am more interested in the range of ideas the contest will produce, as well as the thinkers, rather than the winning idea itself. If we were to decide to craft an idea for contest submission, one of the most likely areas would deal with how to increase the participation of Birthright alumni beyond the return home.
As you know from my previous entries (here, here), I am a Birthright poster child as I went on Birthright, decided to return to Israel for a year of service through a 10 month volunteer program, and stayed on to make aliyah and a life in Israel.
Until now, local Jewish organizations, namely federations, have hosted follow up programs for Birthright alumni, and the Birthright website is an increasingly strong resource, but there is no unifying movement to help promote Judaism among young Jewish adults. That is one of the reasons that I started my website, TheNewJew.org (in nascent stages) and one of the issues that is most important to me as part of the target demographic.
Neither the timeline for the contest nor the guidelines for how the winner will be chosen have been publicized– the 1929 contest it was modeled after was two years in duration– but you can be sure that I will be waiting with baited breath for the results.
Until then, I look forward to thinking about and sharing ideas with you on how to promote Jewish communal involvement among all populations. As Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
Please see Charles Bronfman’s article in the New Jersey Jewish Standard, “All Must Step Up Funding for Birthright,” that discusses the finding of the study, “Beyond Distancing: Young Adult American Jews and their Alienation from Israel.” (If anyone knows how a copy of this report in the original, not just commentary, could be acquired, I would be most grateful. — Edit: received, thank you.)