Funding crisis threatens winter birthright trips

Dec., Jan. trips funded but Feb., March and summer trips in question.

birthright  248.88 (photo credit: Taglit-birthright)
birthright 248.88
(photo credit: Taglit-birthright)
Birthright israel has notified trip operators that it cannot guarantee funding for trips scheduled for later this winter, The Jerusalem Post has learned. In a letter to the operators, the organization assured them the trips in December and January were fully funded, but said the organization was "presently working to ensure we can run our February and March trips." A final answer on these trips is expected sometime this month. "We are aware that some of you have already informed your applicants they have a spot during this month," the letter stated. "Should we have to cancel these trips, we will assist you in dealing with this situation." The letter also tells operators to hold off on making summer plans. "Usually at this time of year, we set our projected numbers for the summer round," it read. "Unfortunately, we are not yet able to project our summer numbers. You are requested not to make any promises... to any applicants about the summer until receiving one from us." The letter noted that the organization hoped to finalize its summer plans by January. "I don't have a reason to cry, but I don't feel fantastic either," said birthright CEO Gidi Mark, who admitted the organization was concerned that its funding could be dramatically reduced as major donors felt the brunt of the financial storm. "Even so, we haven't yet had to reduce our expectations of bringing 14,000 participants this winter, a prediction made before the beginning of the financial crisis," Mark said. Many donors are making a point of coming through in expectation of the downturn, Mark explained. "Last year we had a budget of $110 million, but that was because of a special push in honor of Israel's 60th birthday. Next year we believe our budget will return to the average of the previous four years, around $75m.," he said. Mark admitted the organization might feel the full impact of the financial crisis "after a delay, but we don't know that yet. We don't have any experience with this type of situation." He noted that birthright had not canceled any trips as yet. He said the letter to the operators showed that the group was being careful.