On the surface, the tour looked much like a standard Birthright Israel trip: Participants celebrated Shabbat in Jerusalem’s Old City, swam in the Dead Sea and ascended the ancient mountain fortress at Masada. The trip was mostly free and organizers were prepared with follow-up programming after the participants returned home. But the nearly 200 women who arrived in Jerusalem last week weren’t there for one of the free 10-day Jewish identity-building trips that Birthright has operated for more than a decade. They were participants in what has been described as Birthright for Jewish moms, MOMENTUM, an eight-day tour of the Jewish state for mothers.
Run by the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project, or JWRP, the trip’s goals are much the same as that of the regular Birthright: strengthening Jewish identity and connection to Israel.
But the trip also has an explicitly religious component, with several events hosted by the Orthodox outreach organization Aish Hatorah. Some JWRP staff members are former Aish employees and several board members are also Aish donors.
And unlike Birthright, which is open to all Jews aged 18 to 26, the JWRP trip is open only to women who are not traditional Sabbath observers – a sign that they already have strong connections to Judaism.
Some 5,000 women from 19 countries have taken the trip since JWRP was founded seven years ago. The trips are free aside from airfare and are partially funded by the Israeli government. They have become so popular that JWRP began running men’s trips last year.
Though most of the participants have been to Israel before, some said traveling with other women has allowed them to feel a sense of community and warmth.
After the trip, participants must commit to attend follow-up seminars back home at least once a month either on Israel, relationships or community leadership.
Get more information on the JWRP website.