Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies

Evaluating the Program Impact of Birthright Israel Onward: Findings from the Summer 2023 Cohort

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

April 2024

Report cover for Birthright Israel Onward

Birthright Israel Onward (Onward) offers Jewish young adults an opportunity to participate in a fellowship or to gain professional experience working in an Israeli organization while deepening their connection to Israel, their Jewish identity, and their Jewish peers. Designed as a second experience in Israel, Onward is experienced either as an extension program to a ten-day Birthright trip (“Birthright & Onward”) or as a stand-alone program (“Onward Only”) primarily for individuals who have already been to Israel on Birthright or under other auspices.

This report summarizes findings from the pre-trip and post-trip surveys of summer 2023 applicants to Onward and Birthright Israel. The evaluation focused primarily on the educational experience of the programs and their impact on participants’ Jewish and Israel connections.

Key findings:

  • In summer 2023, 37% of Onward participants chose a combined Birthright & Onward experience. An additional 19% were prior Birthright participants who returned on Onward, 27% joined Onward after having some other Israel experience, and 16% had never been to Israel.
  • Most Onward participants, regardless of whether they also applied to Birthright, were motivated to apply to Onward by the opportunity to travel to Israel and the opportunity to build their resume through an internship.
  • Summer 2023 Onward participants rated the program highly, with 62% rating it as one of the best experiences in their lives and 69% reporting that it “very much” contributed to their personal growth.
  • Participation in a combined Birthright & Onward experience in summer 2023 had a statistically significant impact on eight outcomes related to Jewish and Israel connections, which represents the added value of Onward above and beyond the impact of participating in Birthright alone.
  • Onward’s impact as a stand-alone program (Onward Only) was statistically significant for three outcomes: connection to Israel, connection to Jewish values and volunteering for Jewish or Israeli causes.