Birthright Israel to cut up to a third of participants in 2023

Birthright Israel is on a mission to seek contributions from the wider American-Jewish community to maintain the organization’s provision of the critical program.

Jewish youth from around the world take part in Birthright Israel's Mega Event (photo credit: EREZ OZIR)
Jewish youth from around the world take part in Birthright Israel's Mega Event
(photo credit: EREZ OZIR)

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as other factors, Birthright Israel’s budget has been cut, causing the organization to slash by up to a third the number of participants it can take to Israel in 2023.

The Birthright Israel Foundation, the organization’s funding arm, is in conversation with its largest donors to brief about this development and say they are confident to be able to continue supporting Birthright Israel.

But, a significant shortage remains, and Birthright Israel is on a mission to seek contributions from the wider American-Jewish community to maintain the organization’s provision of the critical program, which offers the gift of a 10-day trip to Jewish young adults, many of whom have never been to Israel.

Birthright officials worried over expected budget cut

In 2022, Birthright will bring a record 35,000 Jewish young adults from around the world to Israel, a number that could be reduced to 23,500 for 2023. During the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America, many heads of Jewish organizations told The Jerusalem Post they are worried about the expected cut in Birthright’s budget and that this will affect a generation of Jews in the Diaspora that may not ever visit Israel as a result.

Many of these leaders also felt that Birthright didn’t ask them at the time to assist in fundraising. Another head of a Jewish organization told the Post, “it’s a shame that we had to get to this situation, since we all agree that Birthright is the most important educational venture in the Jewish world. There shouldn’t be any friction here since we are all on the same side and want the best for the organization and the future of our Jewish communities.”

Birthright participants and IDF soldiers during a visit to Israel before the pandemic. (credit: EREZ UZIR)Birthright participants and IDF soldiers during a visit to Israel before the pandemic. (credit: EREZ UZIR)

There is a myth that Birthright Israel is funded by just a few large donors, including the Israeli government and the Adelson Family Foundation, but that is not the case,” said Birthright Israel Foundation’s President & CEO, Izzy Tapoohi. “Birthright Israel Foundation’s support comes from donors at all levels.”

Birthright to expand donor search

Sources in Birthright Israel said, “expanding Birthright Israel’s reach, rather than reducing it, is vital now, when young Jews are being bombarded with antisemitic and anti-Israel sentiments on social media and on college campuses.

“But the inflation that has hit much of the global economy, and the rising costs of travel post-COVID, have driven up Birthright Israel’s expenses. Without offsetting donations, thousands of applicants will be denied the chance to experience a Birthright Israel trip,” officials said.

“The significant cost increases of our program mean that we will not be able to accommodate as many applicants in the coming years, and we know that those who miss out on a Birthright trip are unlikely to travel to Israel at all” said Birthright Israel CEO Gidi Mark. “There has never been a more critical need for Birthright Israel than now. Without a major immediate increase in fundraising, we will be hard-pressed to have the positive effect we’ve had on many individuals – and that will inevitably impact American Jewish organizations that are used to seeing enthusiastic young adults return from Israel and take major roles in the Jewish community. On average, nearly 60% of communal professionals in the US are Birthright alumni.”

"There has never been a more critical need for Birthright Israel than now"

Birthright Israel CEO Gidi Mark

Extensive research has revealed that Birthright participants have a significantly stronger connection to Israel and a far deeper Jewish identity than non-participants. A recent Brandeis University analysis of the Pew study found that Birthright participants are substantially more likely to marry Jews and raise their children Jewish.

“Birthright is a winning formula for a vibrant Jewish future,” said Mark. “Participants return to their communities more educated about Israel, more involved in Jewish life, prouder of who they are as Jews. They feel part of their communities and tend to make up to 40 new Jewish and Israeli friends from their trip. Birthright is the key to ensuring a stronger Jewish community.”