Birthright + 1: One Response to the Pew Study

October 24, 2013

Source: eJewish Philanthropy


Rabbi Daniel Groper proposes an idea to encourage young Jewish couples to connect with their Judaism. He believes it is time for a new iteration of Birthright – one that focuses on young Jews at a critical time in their lives, the period between a couple getting married and choosing to settle down. He proposes establishing Birthright Plus One, a highly subsided trip to Israel as a first year anniversary gift from the Jewish people.


"We are not going to change or reverse the intermarriage rate. Only a fraction of our young people will attend Jewish Day Schools, Jewish summer camps or long term Israel programs. The Pew survey shows that fewer and fewer Jews will join synagogues – and if they do, it is more often for the short term. What we CAN do is to give these young Jews an experience at a critical juncture in their lives, an experience that will plant real seeds, giving them an opportunity to think about what it means to be Jewish and how Judaism can come to be meaningful and relevant in their daily lives.


Here’s the idea:

  • On (or about) a couple’s first anniversary, they would get a free (or heavily subsidized) Birthright experience in Israel.
  • The couple needs to have at least one Jewish partner who identifies as a Jew.
  • The Jew could have already traveled to Israel on Birthright (i.e. prior trips would not disqualify).
  • Birthright would connect these couples to local synagogues before and after their trip to engage them.

Why would such a program be a valuable investment for the future of Judaism in North America?

  • Data shows how impactful a Birthright experience is to Jews. Just think about how much it will mean to couples.
  • Around their first anniversary young couples are having serious conversations about the rest of their lives together. The “honeymoon” period has worn off. Now (especially as most couples with a Jewish partner are older), discussions about children are taking place as are questions of where they might settle. They may or may not be talking about the role of Judaism in their lives. Israel is the most powerful classroom to have these conversations about identity, meaning and the role Judaism can play. AND the bonus of being with other couples in and around the same age is that the conversations can be quite fruitful, especially if those leading the conversations are trained facilitators.
  • We get to maintain a connection to couples after the wedding. Those of us who officiate at weddings spend a lot of time getting to know couples – usually they share a great deal of their personal life, their hopes and dreams with us. After the wedding, unless they live in our communities (which for us suburban rabbis is rare), we hardly if ever see them. In other words, until these couples give birth to a 3rd grader, we have little to no contact. Birthright for couples will be a great way to create, maintain and nurture those relationships.

Read the full article at eJewish Philanthropy.

Updated: Dec. 11, 2013