Jewish Futures Project. Birthright Israel's First Decade of Applicants: A Look at the Long-term Program Impact
Graham Wright, Shahar Hecht, and Leonard Saxe
The Jewish Futures Project (JFP) has been following multiple cohorts of Birthright participants, and others who applied to the program but did not go, for over a decade. In the sixth wave of the JFP study, we explore whether Birthright’s long-documented impact on connection to Israel and engagement in Jewish life persists, as participants grow older, and the trip recedes further in their memory.
The JFP panel is composed of a stratified random sample of individuals who applied to go on Birthright trips between 2001 and 2009. Data for the sixth wave of the study were collected through an online survey that took place between June and December 2019. A total of 2,477 panelists responded to the survey, representing an overall response rate (AAPOR RR2) of 45%.
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- Related Oped: Why a Post-Pandemic World Needs Birthright More than Ever, Leonard Saxe, The Forward, November 30, 2020
Birthright participants are much more likely to have a Jewish spouse or partner compared to similar nonparticipants: 55% versus 39%.
- Birthright’s impact on choice of spouse is evident among those with one Jewish parent as well as among those with two Jewish parents.
- Birthright’s impact on choice of spouse is concentrated among those who marry for the first time between the ages of 26 and 32.
Birthright’s impact on participants has two pathways. Birthright increases participants’ likelihood of engagement in Jewish life because they are more likely to have a Jewish partner (indirect impact). Birthright also increases Jewish engagement in some areas of Jewish life, regardless of whether that participant had a Jewish partner or not (direct impact).
Because Birthright participants are more likely to be partnered with other Jews, they are more likely than similar nonparticipants to raise their oldest child Jewish, to have brit milah for their oldest son, to be connected to Israel, to be synagogue members, to volunteer for Jewish or Israeli causes, to participate in events sponsored by Jewish organizations, to have Jewish friends, to celebrate Shabbat, to attend Jewish religious services, and to celebrate Jewish holidays. These effects represent Birthright's indirect impact.
Birthright has an additional, direct impact on partnered participants, even on those who have non-Jewish partners, in some of these domains. Birthright participants who are partnered with non-Jews are more likely to feel connected to Israel, to have Jewish friends, to attend Jewish religious services, and to celebrate Rosh Hashanah and Passover.