Poll: Birthright, Masa boost interest in Judaism, Israel

Survey conducted on behalf of Masa Israel Journey shows Birthright a major factor in non-Orthodox Jews making longer visits to Israel that Masa offers.

Birthright and Masa trips significantly boost interest in Judaism and Israel among all attendees, particularly among the non-Orthodox participants, according to new data released Sunday.
According to the survey conducted by Prof. Steven Cohen on behalf of Masa Israel Journey, Birthright was a major factor in non-Orthodox Jews making the longer visits to Israel that Masa offers.
About 70 percent of those who took part in Masa’s six- to 12-month programs were non- Orthodox. However, that proportion was higher among at Birthright alumni, as some 91% of those who discovered Masa via Birthright were not Orthodox.
Researchers said the data indicates that a combination of a short-term programs by way of Birthright and then longerterm ones such as Masa is an effective way to move Jews of all backgrounds, even the non- Orthodox, who tend to be less connected with Judaism and Israel, researchers said.
“First of all, this study shows that staying in Israel for an extended time has results and that the numbers on this are very impressive,” Ayelet Shilo- Tamir, CEO of Masa Israel Journey, said.
“But this rise is not only the result of a demographic increase in the Orthodox population.
Taglit [Birthright] attracts people from other backgrounds, too.”
Unlike Birthright, Masa programs are not free, although they are heavily subsidized by Israel, the Jewish Agency and the Jewish Federations of North America.
This year Masa has brought over 10,000 participants to Israel, Shilo-Tamir said. Since it began in 2004, over 55,000 participants have taken part in Masa programs.
“We need Birthright, but then Masa gives them that added push,” Shilo-Tamir said.
“The Birthright-Masa combination really works.”
Some 13,525 people took part in the survey. Of the 83,000 questionnaires sent out via email to Masa and Birthright alumni between September and October 2010, some 21% replied.