Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies

Birthright Israel during Covid-19: Program Impact on Summer 2021 Participants

Graham Wright, Shahar Hecht, Sasha Volodarsky, and Leonard Saxe

April 2022

Report cover for "Birthright Israel During Covid-19: Program Impact on Summer 2021 ParticipantsThis report documents the impact of Birthright Israel in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and the aftermath of the May 2021 Israel-Hamas conflict. The findings draw data collected in pre- and post-trip surveys of US Jewish young adults who applied to go on summer 2021 Birthright Israel trips. The analyses examine changes in attitudes and behaviors among participants and nonparticipants. Despite the disruptions of the pandemic and the lingering tensions of the conflict, overall evaluations of the summer 2021 trips were extremely positive, and the impact of the program remained robust.

Key findings:

  • The majority (69%) of Birthright participants felt that the trip was one of the best experiences of their lives.
  • For a large number of participants, the Birthright trip itself was not the end of their experience in Israel: Nearly half (44%) of participants on the summer 2021 trips elected to extend their stay in Israel beyond the 10 days.
  • Even three to six months after the trip ended, many of the social connections participants formed on the trip remained.
  • Participation in Birthright dramatically increased feelings of connection to Israel. Before the trip, 35% of participants felt “very much” connected to Israel; after the trip, this sentiment increased to 56%.
  • During a period when many young Jews were becoming less confident in their understanding of the current situation in Israel, participants became more confident.
  • Birthright preserved interest in following news about Israel among participants during a period where their peers became far less interested.
  • Participation in Birthright led participants to feel more connected to Jewish customs and traditions, Jewish history, and Jewish values, and more a part of the worldwide Jewish community.
  • Participation in Birthright led participants to become more active in Jewish social activities.