Birthright participants at Masada.
Birthright participants at Masada. Photo by 'Taglit’
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Birthright as Jewish game-changer

Following the cliché “if it bleeds, it leads,” the accusatory headline of the article in Haaretz proclaimed: “As numbers drop, Birthright targets candidates with little or no Jewish connection.” A more accurate, admittedly more boring headline, would declare: “Fourteen years later, Birthright continues doing its job.” Particularly around Holocaust Remembrance Day, we must remember that every Jew is precious to us. Programs appealing to Jews across the spectrum and connecting them to Israel do sacred work.

When Taglit-Birthright Israel began, who could have imagined that over 350,000 young Jews would participate – or that, as the article acknowledges, Birthright expects a record-breaking summer, with over 30,000 participants from 41 different countries scheduled to visit Israel.

Repeated surveys confirm what so many Birthright alumni report: This free, 10-day Israel trip is the Jewish game-changer, the most popular and effective force today in jump-starting positive Jewish journeys and constructive relationships with Israel, especially for young unaffiliated Jews. Thousands have thanked Birthright for showing them Israel beyond the headlines, and a dynamic Judaism they never encountered before.

Birthright is redoubling efforts to engage those youngsters because Birthright’s core mission remains unchanged. Birthright marketing to the unaffiliated is like synagogues holding services, schools teaching students, the IRS collecting taxes – institutions caught in the act of doing what should be doing.

Polls suggesting that some unaffiliated Jews “fear… the program will be ‘too religious’ or push ‘pro-Israel propaganda,’” as the subhead shouted, also reinforce Birthright’s importance.  Birthright is the solution, not the cause of these misperceptions.

The secret to Birthright’s success has been introducing Israel with no strings attached, making no demands politically, religiously, institutionally, in return for this generous gift. Most leave inspired because Israel’s story and our Jewish narrative are compelling. That remains the best headline.

Gil Troy, Chair, Birthright Israel International, Education Committee

Time to determine Israel’s borders

Israel’s borders with Egypt and Jordan have now been formally recognized and confirmed as part of the peace treaties with those countries, and with Lebanon as part of the 1949 Armistice Agreements. The borders with Syria and the Palestinian territories are still in dispute. Israel’s borders with the West Bank and Gaza Strip are currently the Green Line, except in East Jerusalem, and the cease-fire line with Syria runs along the United Nations-monitored boundary between the Golan Heights and Syrian-controlled territory.

Israel, probably, the only country in the world without recognized borders, is celebrating 66 years of Independence. Is it not about time to determine the borders of the State of Israel?

Honey Stollman, Ramat Gan