My first trips were with my father, when he led yearly groups during the 1970’s. As a child, I remember my father telling me that if he had access to enough funding the one project he would undertake is guaranteeing every Jewish young adult a trip to Israel.
This was his dream that grew out of his personal experience. Raised in a fairly normal middle class home he had gone to hebrew school, hated it, and made his way through high school being proud of his Jewish identity but with no deeper connection. However at seventeen he traveled to Israel and it changed his life.
He came back to the United States understanding why Judaism, Israel and Jewish identity/culture matter. He finally understood what it meant to be a Jew in the modern world. Then he devoted the rest of his life to making sure others understood that as well. He went on to develop every form of Jewish media and communications possible, culminating in the creation of JLTV ten years ago. It also inspired him to lead dozens of groups to Israel personally, including California Loves Israel during the 1980’s, still one of the largest organized trips in history.
In the late ‘90s a group of the world’s wealthiest Jewish philanthropists did indeed realize this dream of bringing our youth to the Holyland. They too believed that an Israel experience would have a profoundly positive effect on Jewish lives and it was worth investing in.
Birthright was initially funded by a dozen individuals and family trusts with the mission of guaranteeing every young Jewish American with an educationally inspiring trip to our homeland. Subsequently, Jewish organizations and the government of Israel partnered as well, and currently Birthright, or Taglit/Discovery as it is known in Hebrew, has grown to be one of the largest and most successful undertakings in the Jewish world. It now includes young people from around the world, and hundreds of thousands have now made this journey. It is interesting to note that other ethnic groups including Armenians and Greeks seeing Birthright’s success have tried to replicate the experience for their own diaspora communities.
One of the most inspiring aspects Birthright is that it brings together the entire Jewish community, across the religious and political spectrum, because it isn’t one trip, it is hundreds of trips, organized by every religious denomination, most large Jewish organization, dozens of interests and orientations, as well as many college Hillels. In order to qualify as a Birthright trip the participating entity must adhere to certain guidelines and mandatory meetings and visits, but within that context each trip is unique.
In the last fifteen years dozens of young people from Santa Clarita have traveled to Israel on many different Birthright trips. This June I will be leading a Kesher trip, organized by the Reform movement. It is called SCV Jews & Beth Ami Birthright and is open to anyone who qualifies for a trip under Birthright guidelines. Registration is available online at gokesher.org, but it must be done by the traveler. In order for them to go on our trip, which departs LAX, they simply need to indicate SCV Jews & Beth Ami Birthright. And we will be making history as the first trip facilitated by an organization in Santa Clarita.
Our group will be traveling from June 19-29, and while most of those on this particular trip will be in the 22-26 range, it is open to ages 18-26. Will this be the last time Temple Beth Ami organizes a Birthright trip? Ask me in July. Chances are it won’t be, and thankfully it appears Birthright will be available for many years to come. Keep an eye out for future TBA trips to Israel for people of all ages, and while not subsidized, we always make sure that these journeys are as affordable as possible.
Registration for all applicants opens on Monday, February 1st at 10am EST at www.gokesher.org
On registration day, applicants should fill out all 8 sections of Taglit-Birthright Israel’s application, known as the Primary Application. In section 2 of the Primary Application, applicants should make sure to select URJ Kesher as their trip organizer.
Note About Eligibility
Taglit-Birthright Israel has recently changed their eligibility rules. Applicants who have already been to Israel on a peer program before turning 18 are now eligible for the gift.
Submitting the Deposit
All applicants must submit a refundable $250 deposit in order to be placed on a trip. Deposits can be placed using a credit or debit card with a $10 processing fee.
- Approximately 24-48 hours after main registration opens, URJ Kesher will send all eligible and complete applicants an invitation to the Secondary Application (note: this application is exclusive to URJ Kesher). This application will include a list of all trips offered, with specific, tentative dates. Applicants will be asked to select, in order of preference, all trips for which they are interested in traveling. THE TBA/SCV trip will be included in this list.
- Based on these reports, applicants will be emailed their trip offer and given 72 hours to respond. If they do not respond within the time frame, their trip offer will be revoked.