birthright logo 88.
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Birthright Israel and MASA are to be united under one organizational umbrella, according to plans being developed in the Prime Minister's Office, Cabinet Secretary Yisrael Maimon said on Monday.
Taglit-birthright Israel has brought thousands of college-age Jews from around the world for a 10-day trip in Israel. MASA has brought some 8,000 Jews of the same age for semester and yearlong volunteer and study programs in Israel.
Linking the two organizationally will allow the government to unify their marketing budget and to better integrate programming for the two programs, Maimon told a group of two dozen visiting journalists from Jewish newspapers around the world at the Prime Minister's Office.
"I spoke with [birthright Israel Director] Dr. Shimshon Shoshani last week about this," Maimon said, "and we decided to speak about it in greater detail over the next 10 days."
MASA Executive Director Dr. Elan Ezrachi said better integrations between the two programs would help them fulfill their mission of strengthening Jewish identity in the Diaspora.
"Birthright Israel is the beginning of engagement with Israel and its greatest achievement is the motivation it gives to thousands of Jewish young adults around the world," he added. "MASA participants are increasingly coming from birthright Israel alumni."
Discussions over a possible integration of the two programs have been going on for two years with some philanthropists expressing concern that MASA would steal funds, both philanthropic and governmental, from birthright Israel. However, as Maimon pointed out in the Monday meeting, government funding for MASA did not affect Israel's financial commitment to birthright Israel.
Sources familiar with the programs noted that an advantage of combining the two would be in loosening the bureaucratic binds around the MASA program. As a Jewish Agency-owned company, MASA is limited by many of the legal requirements that effect public companies, such as a requirement to issue public tenders for services. Birthright Israel, a private non-profit organization, which could absorb the MASA program and infrastructure, does not have such restrictions.