Birthright participants feel closer to Israel, Judaism after trip - Pew

The new Pew survey is the first true indicator of the Birthright program, which offers American Jewish youth all-expense paid trips to Israel.

First birthright trip to Israel in over a year. (photo credit: EREZ UZIR)
First birthright trip to Israel in over a year.
(photo credit: EREZ UZIR)

Birthright Israel, a program that since 1999 has brought more than 800,000 young Jewish adults on a ten-day, all-expenses paid trip to Israel to introduce them to the Jewish state’s ancient historical and cultural roots, is held to significantly strengthen American Jewish young adults’ connection to Israel and commitment to leading Jewish lives.

A new Pew Research survey shows that the trip is achieving those goals. For instance, 34% of the 5,000 American Jewish respondents said they were “somewhat/very” attached to Israel before the trip – a figure that rose to 63% after the trip, marking an 85% increase in the respondent’s attachment to the Jewish state.

The Pew survey, conducted from late 2019 through mid-2020, also found that 40% of respondents were more likely to feel a “great deal” of belonging to the Jewish people compared to 26% before the trip – an increase of 54%.

71% more likely to feel “a lot” in common with Israeli Jews compared to 45% before the trip – a 58% increase – while respondents also said they were 45% more likely to have attended a Seder than the previous Passover (77% compared to 53%).

 A Birthright group poses for a photo. (credit: TAGLIT-BIRTHRIGHT) A Birthright group poses for a photo. (credit: TAGLIT-BIRTHRIGHT)

Lastly, Birthright and its message seem to leave an impact on perhaps the most critical part of having a Jewish life – marrying a Jewish spouse. While only 39% of respondents said they were more likely to have a spouse who is Jewish, that figure rose from just 15% before the trip – marking an increase of 160%.

Birthright Israel’s impact on American Jews

Birthright has hosted over 800,000 of 2.6 million eligible Americans – a staggering 30% of Jewish adolescents in the United States.

”This is the first time there is enough data from a national study of Jews, like the Pew survey, to evaluate the effects of a specific Jewish program like Birthright,” said Prof. Leonard Saxe, the director of the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University. 

“The findings validate multiple evaluation studies of Birthright’s impact conducted over the past 20 years…They demonstrate that Birthright Israel creates meaningful changes in Jewish identity and engagement that are shaping the future of American Jewish life,” Birthright Israel CEO Gidi Mark declared.