Birthright may have publicly rebuffed J Street’s proposal to sponsor a trip to Israel, but according to the “pro-Israel, pro-peace” lobby, there is still a large segment of young American Jews who are too “uncomfortable” to participate in the traditional Birthright program (i.e., a program that fosters Zionism and a positive connection to the Jewish state). So now J Street has decided to reach out to this under-served mass of young and nuance-driven Jews by sponsoring its own trip to Israel.
“We know that many students are hesitant to participate in traditional Birthright trips,” J Street said in a mailer today. “We know that many avoid a relationship with Israel out of a discomfort with traditional models of Israel education and engagement.”
Of course, while only 10-15 students are participating in the J Street trip next summer, nearly half the Diaspora Jewish population between the ages of 18 and 26 will have taken a Birthright trip by 2013:
The goal of the funding increase is to bring 51,000 participants a year on the trip by 2013, which would mean, according to Birthright officials, “that one in every two young Jewish adults worldwide will have gone to Israel on a Birthright Israel trip.”
Seventy-five percent of the participants come from North America.
Last year, 30,000 young Jews went on the trips but another 30,000 were wait-listed because of lack of funding.
J Street can say what it wants about the Birthright program. But with 30,000 anxious young people on the waiting list last year, it sure doesn’t sound like Birthright has a problem with lack of participation.