Birthright Israel Publications
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.
Birthright Israel trips have emerged as the normative “coming-of-age” experience for contemporary Jewish young adults. Birthright Israel has made a commitment to making its ten-day educational experiences accessible for young adults with a variety of specialized needs stemming from life-threatening or chronic illnesses, physical and sensory impairments, and cognitive and developmental disabilities
This report assesses Birthright’s effectiveness in providing a balanced educational program to participants from diverse backgrounds. 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.
By examining response patterns to questions about Jewish attitudes, the study identified five different types of Jewish identity among the young adults who applied to go on a Birthright trip in summer 2018: Ancestry, Secular Peoplehood, Casual Religious, Connected, and Committed. After sorting applicants into groups corresponding to their Jewish identity type, the study examined the ways in which participants in the different groups were impacted by their Birthright experience.
This study focuses on two groups of Birthright Israel participants: first, those from Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus and second, Russian-speaking Jews (RSJ) in Germany. It is part of a larger program of research designed to understand the impact of Birthright Israel (known in the FSU and Germany as Taglit) on its participants. The study draws on pre- and post-trip surveys of the summer 2017 cohort from these countries, as well as on a long-term survey of participants from Russia and Ukraine who participated in the program during 2010-14.
The report presents findings from the 5th wave of a longitudinal study of several thousand Jewish young adults who applied to Birthright between 2001 and 2009 and includes an analysis of the ways in which Birthright’s impact manifests in different subgroups: those with one versus two Jewish parents, those whose sole Israel experience was a Birthright trip, participants who are single versus partnered, and men versus women.
Janet Krasner Aronson
This study assesses the impact of Birthright Israel on parents of participants—in particular, on the ways in which parents’ indirect exposure to their adult children’s experiences in the program affect those parents’ connections to Israel. Contemporary Jewry (2017) 37:405–431
In the wake of the Israel-Hamas war in summer 2014, US and Canadian college campuses were the settings for many anti-Israel activities, including the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. This study attempts to understand the extent of hostility toward Israel and antisemitism on North American campuses and assess the relationship between these trends and Jewish students’ support for and connection to Israel.
This report focuses on findings from a study of Taglit-Birthright summer 2014 applicants and participants and the degree to which the change in the applicant pool affected perceptions of the trip experience, the impact of the trip itself on connection to Israel and sense of Jewish identity, and the impact of the conflict in Gaza on trip experiences and trip impact.
Theodore Sasson, Michelle Shain, Shahar Hecht, Graham Wright, and Leonard Saxe (2014)
Nationalism and Ethnic Politics 20 (4): 438-454
The findings in this report were derived from data collected in 2013 for the fourth wave of the Jewish Futures Project, a longitudinal study of Jewish young adults. The expanded number of panelists with families allows for new analyses of marriage patterns and child rearing, including the study of applicant subgroups (e.g., children of intermarried parents).
This study examines the reactions of a diverse group of Jewish young adults (applicants to Taglit-Birthright Israel) to the 2014 conflict in Gaza. The report compares their responses to the opinions of young adults in the United States.
This study attempts to better understand the current Taglit-Birthright Israel application experience. The sample for this study was drawn from all applicants to Taglit in 2013. The report examines the motivations for applying to Taglit, for selecting a particular trip, and the possible reasons for not going on the trip. For those who participated in a 2013 trip, the survey also assessed their overall trip experience.
This report looks at the short and medium-term impact of Taglit-Birthright as seen during the emerging young adult phase of life--the period immediately after the trips and the first few years that follow. The study focuses, in particular, on attitudes toward Jewish life and participation in Jewish activities.
The report examines Argentinean Jewish young adults’ demographic characteristics and current Jewish identity and practices. The report also focuses on participants’ thoughts about their Taglit experience and explores the trip’s impact on their lives after their return to Argentina. This report is based on data collected in a survey of individuals who applied to Taglit in 2010 from Argentina. Read the report in Spanish.
This report describes Brazilian Jewish young adults’ contemporary lives, including measures of Jewish identity and behavior. The report also focuses on participants’ thoughts about their Taglit experience and explores the trip’s impact on their lives after their return to Brazil. This report is based on data collected in a survey of individuals who applied to Taglit in 2010 from Brazil.
The impact of Taglit-Birthright Israel on its alumni six to eleven years after their trip to Israel is examined in this study. The data are derived from the third year of a longitudinal study of Jewish young adults.
Key to understanding the impact of Taglit-Birthright Israel is whether participants return to Israel. The report summarizes recent data about Canadian and U.S. Taglit participants, both in terms of their patterns of trip extensions, as well as their return trips to Israel.
Leonard Saxe, Benjamin Phillips, Theodore Sasson, Shahar Hecht, Michelle Shain, Graham Wright and Charles Kadushin
Contemporary Jewry, 31 (2): 151-172
Theodore Sasson, David Mittelberg, Shahar Hecht, and Leonard Saxe
Journal of Diaspora, Indigenous and Minority Education, 5, 178-197.
This report examines the impact of Taglit-Birthright Israel on its alumni five to nine years after their visits to Israel. The data are derived from the second year of a longitudinal study of Jewish young adults.
To assess American Jewish views about Israel, a survey was conducted in June 2010 of more than 1,200 individuals who were identified as Jewish in a large national panel. The survey explores American Jewish attachment to Israel, in particular in the younger generation.
This report represents the first long-term study of Taglit-Birthright Israel alumni to document the program's impact on early participants and their decisions and attitudes regarding marriage, community, and connection to Israel.
Drawing on survey, focus group, and interview data, the report develops a portrait of Jewish young adult life in four of the largest Jewish communities in North America: Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Toronto.
Since its inception nine years ago, more than 30,000 Israeli young adults have also experienced Birthright Israel. This report aims to improve understanding of the formal and informal components of the mifgash (encounter), as well as the significance of the experience for North American and Israeli participants.
This report focuses on the North American cohort of nearly 60,000 young adults who participated in Birthright Israel trips in summer 2007 and winter 2007-08. Included in the report is a description of applicant characteristics and an analysis of the reactions of program participants to the program at approximately three months post trip.
Zionist collective memory has long associated Masada with the struggle to secure Jewish sovereignty over the land of Israel. This article examines the effects of the political upheavals of the Oslo and post-Oslo periods on the meanings ascribed to Masada and documents the popularity of a critical counter-narrative in tour guides’ presentations of Masada to diaspora Jewish tourists.
Widespread concern exists within the American Jewish community about declining American Jewish attachment to Israel. Concern has been fueled by social scientific analyses which, both conceptually and empirically, suggest declining attachment. The present paper examines these arguments, along with evidence from national surveys conducted over several decades, and critically assesses the emerging narrative about American Jewry’s growing distance from Israel.
Presentation to the 8th Annual Herzliya Conference, Herzliya, Israel
This presentation goes beyond data about the success of Taglit as an educational project and seeks to draw a set of four more complex lessons about the Jewish, Diaspora and Israeli future.
The present report seeks to examine the extent to which program alumni find adequate means to express their heightened interest in Jewish life on their campuses and in their communities. The post trip experience of program alumni was assessed through focus group interviews on campuses and in communities.
The present report describes the North American cohort that participated in Birthright Israel trips during winter 2007 (December 2006 through February 2007). Applicant characteristics are described and reactions of participants to the program approximately three months post trip are analyzed. The Jewish attitudes and behaviors of participants and nonparticipants are compared.
Israel’s war against Hezbollah during July and August, 2006, provided a context for assessing the impact of programs bringing Jewish students and young adults to Israel. How did American Jewish young adults who participated in such programs respond during the war and how do they compare to their peers who had not traveled to Israel on a peer-oriented program?
This report describes the results of a survey conducted between April – May, 2006, of nearly 3000 birthright israel participants and nearly 1,000 nonparticipant applicants from cohorts in 2002/3, 2003/4 and 2005.
This report summarizes two studies. Study 1 presents the findings of a long-term follow-up of early participants in the program. Data were collected from participants and non-participants both before and after trips that took place during the winters of 1999-2000 through 2001-02. This was followed by a follow-up survey beginning in November 2003 to ascertain the program’s effects after several years. Study 2 assesses the short-term effects of the birthright israel trips held during the winter of 2003-04.
This report assesses the extent to which birthright israel has succeeded in affecting the lives of participants one year after the first set of trips concluded.
Paper Presented at the 33rd Annual Meeting of the Association for Jewish Studies
Tourism is commonly dismissed as shallow, frivolous and inauthentic. When an Israel experience program known as Taglit sought to use tourism for the purposes of Jewish education, the standard criticisms made of tourism were also applied to it. In spite of this, participants on Taglit generally felt they had an authentic and profound Jewish experience on the program. To explore how this could have happened in the face of expert predictions to the contrary, Kelner adopts a constructivist notion of authenticity.
This report looks at participants three months and one year after the first Birthright Israel trips.
Paper Presented at the 96th Annual Meeting the American Sociological Association Anaheim, California
This paper analyses the shift from constructivist to existentialist conceptions of authenticity in tourism. Utilizing ethnographic data from a study of a Jewish-American pilgrimage tours to Israel, Kelner argues that a shared narrative linking observer and observed can resolve the dichotomy between constructivist and existentialist notions of authenticity.
To understand what Taglit participants experienced, a team of ethnographers conducted detailed participant observation of over a dozen diverse Birthright Israel groups. The findings reinforce the results of the surveys and help us understand why the trips seem to have such great impact.
In January 2000, nearly 5000 college students and young adults from Diaspora Jewish communities participated in the launch of Birthright Israel. This report summarizes the findings of a preliminary evaluation of Birthright Israel. Along with the results of a preliminary survey of participants conducted one month post-trip, the present report describes the results of a detailed survey of participants and nonparticipants conducted three months post-trip.