A record number of French Jews are expected to participate in Taglit-Birthright trips this summer after the organization vote to set aside special funding for this purpose.
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Minister of Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs Naftali Bennett said Monday that 700 Jews from France would participate this summer in the free 10-day trips to Israel. That compares with just 80 last summer.
Despite being one of the biggest Jewish communities in the Diaspora, France has always accounted for a very tiny percentage of total Birthright participants, the reason being that no Jewish organizations in the country have been able to put up the required funding for the program. According to the Birthright funding model, the government of Israel covers one-third of the total costs of the program, and the balance is funded by Jewish organizations and private philanthropists in the home countries.
In January, the Taglit-Birthright steering committee, which Bennett heads, voted to allocate special funding to allow more French Jews to participate in the program. We set France as a priority, and the new numbers speak for themselves, he said.
Although Birthright does not actively promote immigration to Israel, many French Jews are now considering relocation because of rising anti-Semitism in their country and a bad economy. Jewish organizational officials have expressed hope that many of the French participants in Birthright, once they have a taste of the country, will ultimately choose to come back permanently.