Teen travel to Israel: A light at the end of the COVID tunnel

Published: 
June 9, 2021

Source: eJewish Philanthropy 

 

After more than 18 months of pandemic life, Jewish teens are being offered an “opportunity of a lifetime”—to travel to Israel with their friends in numbers that even weeks ago no one thought was possible for the 2021 summer. Early estimates of registration numbers show that more than 4,000 teens will embark on this journey through RootOne-affiliated trips.

Transforming a generation of North American Jewish teens and helping prepare them for college through teen travel to Israel was the impetus for the RootOne initiative, launched in September 2020. By lowering barriers to participation and working to fuel innovation and meaningful learning and community experiences before, during, and after the trip, RootOne is re-imagining teen travel to Israel with more than 20 teen organizations and summer camps (the largest trip providers are NCSY, BBYO, URJ, Ramah, USY and Young Judaea and several JCC camps). The pandemic—and its impact on teen mental health and social isolation—amplified and accelerated the need to again make teen Israel travel and community building a rite of passage.

Now, following the recent violence in Israel and Gaza, the upcoming RootOne trips to Israel this summer take on an even greater sense of importance and urgency. Teens—smart, savvy, critical thinkers, consumers of information and news—have questions and concerns about the news they watched and the social media posts they consumed just over a month ago. Our community has a responsibility and an opportunity to offer an experience and the space to get answers. At the same time, Jewish organizations and funders want to address the rapid rise in anti-Semitism. RootOne, designed to develop a generation of proud Jews connected to Israel and the Jewish people, is one way to tackle this challenge.

Most of the headlines about RootOne have thus far focused on the unprecedented grant by The Marcus Foundation that provides significant subsidies that youth serving organizations (YSOs) and Jewish residential camps receive to make their multi-week Israel trips more affordable for more teens. No doubt this is a major development and we celebrate it. While the 20 RootOne affiliated organizations approved by The Jewish Agency for Israel to run educational trips this summer will bring the 4,000 fully vaccinated teens to Israel, 5,200 teens actually registered. But only vaccinated teens can go through RootOne at this point. Still, the 5,200 registered teens represent a 59 percent increase in the number of registered teens who traveled to Israel in 2019 with these same 20 organizations.

Creating deeper learning and engagement opportunities is exactly why the Marcus Foundation empowered The Jewish Education Project to launch RootOne. It is so much more than just about getting people to Israel. We will help change the ways in which Jewish youth learn about Israel before traveling there and will better prepare them for college life and a challenging campus climate after their trip. To this end, The Jewish Education Project immediately partnered with The iCenter to elevate Israel education that is part of the RootOne experience, and subsequently with Makom Israel Education, OpenDor Media, The Center for Israel Education at Emory University, Anu (formerly Bet Hatfutsot Museum), Vibe Israel, Hebrew at the Center, Ulpan Or, IMPACT Israel Education and The Jewish Agency for Israel.

Read more at eJewish Philanthropy.

Updated: Jun. 20, 2021
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