Source: ejewish Philanthropy
Stephen Muss, Honorary Chairman of Lapid - The Coalition for High School Age Programs in Israel, reacted in eJewish Philanthropy to a recent announcement about new extraordinary support for Birthright Israel – Taglit, by the Israeli Government. He points out that the Birthright model of awarding free ten-day trips to Israel for Jewish youth age 18-26 has caused the enrollment of Israel high school-age programs to suffer as they do not receive financial support of the Israeli Government. Parents faced with the decision to either pay out money for high school age trips to Israel or wait until “Birthright” age, when it can be free, choose the latter, even though intensive Israel high school trips may even be more effective in helping youth develop their Jewish identity.
"Today, Lapid, which represents a group of some 30 leading Jewish organizations that organize and operate travel programs for high school age Jewish youth, brings between 12,000-15,000 participants to Israel every year. Nothing, and I mean nothing, can compare with an educational trip to Israel during the high school years, when identity formation is most acute. It is widely accepted that an Israel experience which takes place during these formative teenage years leads to a stronger and more effective experience, strengthening ties with Israel for the long term….
That being said, the organized Jewish world and the Government of Israel should have a vested interest in larger numbers of Jewish teens coming to Israel during their high school years. Why? Because when less teens travel to Israel during the high school period the Jewish community loses masses of teens who can engage with Israel earlier; fewer Jewish teens enter college with readiness and motivation to be engaged; and the Jewish world suffers as a result. We lose our youth. Lapid (Hebrew for torch) was established out of necessity so that these high school age programs continue to survive – and thrive – for the betterment of Jewish communities worldwide. For as long as the Government continues to pump enormous amounts of money into Birthright – at the expense of and detriment to the high school age programs – we will be losing the battle."