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Finding Jewish Identity through Passion

December 17, 2018 at 4:40 pm
by Birthright Israel Foundation
Rebecca Cohn in the Hanging Gardens of Haifa

Young adults today live in a dramatically different world than those from the first Birthright Israel groups 19 years ago. Then, many participants got their first passport to embark on their journey to Israel. Today, the sky is the limit for Millennials and Generation Z’ers. International travel has become increasingly affordable. The growth of social media allows anyone to explore the world at the swipe of a finger.

Through the years, Birthright Israel has closely examined changing market trends and strategically modified the program to offer new kinds of experiences. It was evident that for some young Jewish adults, the allure of the classic Birthright Israel trip was not compelling enough.

Young adults today curate all they do, and Birthright Israel’s niche experiences allow participants to customize their own Birthright Israel journey without compromising the core objectives of the trip. These groups create meaningful and engaging interactions among participants, while still meeting individual needs and opening space for self-reflection. Birthright Israel understands that only by adapting to the interests and inclinations of today’s young Jewish adults will it most effectively reach the second generation of Birthright Israel participants.

Rebecca Cohn from Maple Grove, MN, took advantage of an opportunity to join a niche Birthright Israel trip focusing on Spirituality and Mindfulness. She writes about her experiences with great enthusiasm:

“Bringing in Shabbat in Jerusalem was the most awe-inspiring experience. I’ve never felt as spiritual while singing in the Kabbalat Shabbat service on the rooftop of our hotel. Feeling Jerusalem around me, in the presence of the 50 young Jewish adults that I’ve connected with so authentically, was very moving. Under a full moon, the women in our group learned about the traditions of Jewish women in ancient times and how they would connect and support each other.
 
The following afternoon was relaxing and rejuvenating. We were able to spend time with each other separate from the crazy packed Birthright Israel schedule of the rest of the week. My group focused on mindfulness and spirituality where we did meditation and had a laughing yoga session on Shabbat afternoon. It was a blast to be silly and laugh together. After an hour, we could feel it in our core and in our faces from authentically laughing so hard and smiling so much. This experience changed my view on what makes Shabbat special and different from all other days of the week. I’m rethinking what it means for me now that I’m back in the United States and in how I wish to continue to practice my Judaism.”

Sunrise Yoga on Masada with Rebecca Cohn

This past summer, 76 groups engaged in niche experiences beyond the classic trip, including Rebecca’s Spirituality and Mindfulness group. Other Birthright Israel niche journeys focused on:

  • Arts, Music, and Entertainment
  • Business
  • Culinary Indulgence for Foodies
  • LGBTQ and Allies
  • Outdoor Adventure
  • Study Abroad
  • Urban Exploration

Birthright Israel is an established rite of passage in the Jewish lifecycle – filling a void between B’nei Mitzvah and marriage. As a key contributor to Jewish continuity,  it is of paramount importance for the Birthright Israel program to stay relevant and appealing through changing times.

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Rebecca Cohn in the Hanging Gardens of Haifa
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