As we enter the new year of 5778 and reflect on our accomplishments, we have much to be grateful for. Birthright Israel reached a remarkable milestone this year with 600,000 participants experiencing this trip of a lifetime.
Birthright Israel is truly transforming a generation of young Jewish adults, creating profound relationships with their Jewish peers both here and in Israel. The pride and connections they experience in just 10 life-changing days fuel their passion when they return home. They infuse our communities, our synagogues, our Hillels, our Federation, our causes and our families with love for our people and for Israel.
Here in Atlanta, we have had over 7,200 of our children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and neighbors participate in Birthright Israel, and I am proud that most Jewish Atlanta families personally know someone who has received this gift.
The powerful effect of the Birthright Israel experience cannot be denied. Study after study has shown that participants share an increased commitment to marrying a Jewish partner, raising a family in the Jewish tradition, celebrating Jewish holidays, joining Jewish and pro-Israel organizations, having Jewish friends, and returning to visit Israel.
Thanks in part to Birthright Israel, we see an engaged, thriving network of young Jewish professionals here in Atlanta who are getting involved and making a difference in our community.
While most people in the Jewish world have heard of Birthright Israel, many are unaware of our fundraising needs and of our growing nationwide network of donors. At $3,000 per participant, the cost of sending this year’s 48,000-plus young adults exceeds $145 million.
Birthright Israel Foundation, the U.S.-based fundraising arm of Birthright Israel, has more than 30,000 donors from diverse backgrounds, including individuals, foundations, Jewish institutions like Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, family philanthropies, dedicated alumni, their parents and grandparents, etc.
Birthright Israel is a powerful, direct investment in our collective Jewish future, which is why we are working so hard to expand our Atlanta donor base. Truly every dollar counts.
Our priority is to continue providing the gift of Birthright Israel for many generations to come as we continually adapt and add trips to meet the increasingly diverse interests of our participants from all corners of the Jewish world.
While most contributions go toward the cost of a standard 10-day trip, Birthright Israel also designates funding for customized trips, including those with special needs, an extended 13-day trip allowing participants to earn college credit, and an abridged seven-day trip for those unable to take off as much time from school or work.
I hope that you will join us in supporting Birthright Israel and celebrate with us on Monday, Nov. 6, at our annual event with our keynote speaker, Ambassador Danny Danon, Israel’s permanent representative to the United Nations.
This special event, honoring Doug Ross, the Atlanta Leadership Council chair and Birthright Israel Foundation national board member, will be unforgettable and give us an opportunity to express our deep appreciation to members of our community for supporting this profoundly impactful program.
As we gather with our families to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, I want to wish the entire community a happy and healthy new year and thank those who are already part of our growing Birthright Israel Atlanta family. Let us join in the coming year to ensure that even more young Jewish adults can receive this life-changing gift. Shana tova!
Jessica Katz Yonatan is the associate regional director in Atlanta for the Birthright Israel Foundation (birthrightisrael.foundation).