Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies

Israel, Politics, and Birthright Israel: Findings from the Summer 2017 Cohort

Leonard Saxe, Michelle Shain, Graham Wright, and Shahar Hecht

August 2019

Report cover for "Israel, Politics and birthright Israel: Findings from the Summer 2017 Cohort" Leonard saxe, Michelle shain, Graham Wright, Shahar Hecht, August 2019. with illustration of 3 adolescents with arms around each other seen from behind, withThis report assesses Birthright’s effectiveness in providing a balanced educational program to participants from diverse backgrounds. In particular, the report examines Birthright’s impact on the summer 2017 cohort’s feelings of connection to Israel, engagement with Israel, and views regarding particular Israeli policies and investigates whether the program’s impact was different for political liberals versus conservatives. Two surveys of North American Birthright applicants, conducted one to three months before the trip and three to six months after the trip, form the basis of the report.

Key Findings

  • Before the trip, more than half of US applicants to Birthright had little confidence in their knowledge of the situation in Israel. Like other young adult Jews, they were attuned to US politics and predominantly politically liberal.

  • In line with previous studies, participation in Birthright during the summer 2017 dramatically increased participants’ feelings of connection to Israel. Following the trip, participants also expressed greater confidence in understanding the situation in Israel, were somewhat more willing to express opinions about Israel, and were more likely to pay attention to stories about Israel in their social media feeds. These changes were evident regardless of whether participants were politically liberal, moderate, or conservative.

  • After their Birthright Israel trips, the majority of participants reported that the trip included thoughtful discussions about an array of subjects related to Birthright Israel’s core mission, including topics related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The majority also felt that they heard authentic accounts of the conflict and that diverging opinions were respected. Liberals were somewhat less likely to agree with either of these statements compared to moderates and conservatives.

Bar Chart titled "To What Extent do you feel a connection to Israel?" with indicators for "somewhat" and "very much", divided by Liberal, moderate and conservative demographics