Israel trip program to expand offerings for American Jewish youth

The organization builds on the foundation of Birthright trips for university-aged students offering more in-depth and educational experiences for US youth.

February 15, 2017 17:36
2 minute read.
People wave American and Israeli flags‏

People wave American and Israeli flags‏. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Onward Israel, an organization that provides Jewish young adults with multi-week immersive experiences in Israel, recently received an $8 million grant to expand its programming from the Jim Joseph Foundation, a San Francisco-based organization that supports Jewish learning initiatives for young Jews.

Established in 2012 by the Jewish Agency together with numerous partners from the Jewish world, Onward Israel aims to promote Jewish engagement among Jewish young adults. The organization builds on the foundation of Birthright trips for university- aged students, offering more in-depth and educational experiences for young Jews.

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“Onward Israel is designed to meet the interests of today’s young adults who seek international resumé building experiences,” said David Shapira, the program’s co-founder and chairman. “Onward Israel is becoming one of the most attractive and fastest growing deep-impact programs in the Jewish world.”

The grant from the Jim Joseph Foundation will enable Onward Israel to continue to grow as well as invest in educational content to attract more youth, said Shapira.

In the coming year, Onward Israel anticipates increasing the number of participants in its programs from 1,520 to 2,200, as well as expanding its theme-based experience from four to 11. Program areas include entrepreneurship and innovation; education and social services; science, technology and health; policy and government; and sports, hospitality and business.

Onward Israel partners with a range of communities and organizations in Israel to carry out many of its programs.

These programs seek to provide Jewish young adults with the opportunity to form future professional networks based on a shared professional interest, interaction with Israeli society and a shared Jewish experience in Israel.

“Through Onward Israel’s range of programs and opportunities, more and more young adults connect with Israel and build lasting personal connections to the land and people,” explained Barry Finestone, president and CEO of the Jim Joseph Foundation.

“Young adults are especially attracted to these experiences because they add value to both their personal and professional lives,” he said. “We believe that when Jewish and Israel education occurs in this context, it is particularly powerful.”

Last year, Onward Israel launched numerous new initiatives to deepen Jewish learning experiences, including introducing weekend seminars for participants, launching evening mini-courses and internships for academic credit, as well as a pre-program online Hebrew learning opportunity in partnership with Ulpan Or.

According to a report released last year by Rosov Consulting, which has evaluated the organization since its inception, upon completion of the program, the majority of Onward Israel participants increase their engagement in Jewish activities and in the Jewish community, taking on various leadership roles, including organizing and leading Jewish social, cultural and religious events.

“Even a year after their Onward Israel experience, participants are more engaged in Jewish life than they were previously, and many remain connected to their peers from the trip,” said Alex Pomson, managing director of Rosov Consulting.

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