Birthright Israel announced Wednesday, Dec. 6, that 27- to 32-year-olds will be eligible for the free trips to Israel, beginning next summer.

Birthright had been open only to 18- to 26-year-old Jews since its founding in 1999, but an unspecified, limited number of slots will be opened to the older age group.

The increase in Birthright Israel’s maximum age reflects the trend of young adults reaching such milestones as marriage and parenthood later in life and builds on Birthright’s most successful year, with nearly 48,000 participants in 2017.

The age change is meant to enable more Jewish young adults to develop connections with their Jewish heritage.

“We are proud that Birthright Israel has become an important rite of passage for Jews around the world but have heard from many older Jewish adults who feel that they missed their opportunity to attend a trip and explore Israel,” Birthright Israel CEO Gidi Mark said. “Given the impact our trips have on participants personally and professionally, we want to ensure that those who choose to begin the next phase of their lives at a later age are able to have this meaningful experience.”

Charles Bronfman, who co-founded Birthright with Michael Steinhardt, said: “When Birthright Israel was founded in 1999, we never imagined the extent to which these trips would impact young adults globally. I am proud to watch the organization transform over time while continuing to offer high-quality cultural experiences that allow young adults to be proud of their Jewish identity and develop strong connections with the Jewish Diaspora, Israelis and the state of Israel.”

Birthright has sent more than 600,000 Jewish young adults from the Diaspora on trips to Israel, growing from 9,462 participants in 2000 to 48,000 this year. Birthright is committed to continually evaluating its programming to match the needs of participants.

Summer registration opens Jan. 30, although an early-bird option at 10 a.m. Jan. 29 is available for pre-registered applicants. Visit birthrightisrael.com for details.