Source: The Jewish Week
Morlie Levin of Birthright NEXT & Chip Edelsberg of the Jim Joseph Foundation write about how they are trying to answer a big question: How do we, as a collective, effectively foster the Jewish living and learning journeys of hundreds of thousands of newly Birthright Israel inspired young Jewish adults at this critical life stage?
"There have been many programmatic successes, albeit on a relatively small scale. But as funder and grantee, respectively, we came to realize that what Birthright Israel offers is a chance to achieve systemic change and outcomes in a way that simply has not been reachable before. That realization resulted in a change of focus for NEXT: A Division of Birthright Israel Foundation, and a real test of the “rules of engagement” with one of NEXT’s founding funders, the Jim Joseph Foundation.
In 2008, when NEXT was founded, its vision was to establish local chapters that would seamlessly follow up with Birthright Israel alumni after their trips and offer them programming. This was a laudable and understandable goal if the focus were only on individual Jewish journeys. Yet, by 2011, there was agreement by both funder and grantee that this model was not scalable and not conducive to the building of partnerships with Jewish communities, a central ingredient in achieving systemic change. Once these two challenges were acknowledged, NEXT began the difficult operation of correcting course….
Now, NEXT has transitioned into a connector of trip alumni to both national and local Jewish communities; a catalyst for do-it-yourself Jewish experiences among alumni (including the NEXT Shabbat program); and a supporter, convener, and trainer of professionals engaging young Jewish adults.
A noteworthy outcome of this transition is NEXT’s renewed focus on developing partnerships with existing organizations and networks – including (among others) Moishe House, the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, Sharsheret, and Kevah – to help connect more Birthright Israel alumni and their peers to existing meaningful Jewish experiences. By fostering deep partnerships with effective organizational partners we put the focus squarely on participants to emphasize opportunity and choice."
Read more about this collaborative transformation in the Jewish Week.