Birthright Israel, Special Order

January 19, 2017

11. Jewish Week -

12. In an effort to reinvent itself and stay relevant to young adults, Birthright Israel, the program that trademarked the free 10-day Israel trip for the 18-26 crowd, is exploring the niche market. The new effort is inspired by the desire to draw in more unaffiliated young adults who have no prior connection to Israel, rather than a decreased interest in the standard 10-day trip, said Noa Bauer, Birthright’s vice president of international marketing.


“We know that today millennials are interested in personalized things,” said Bauer, speaking to the Jewish Week by phone from Israel. “When a group of people starts off with shared interests, everyone is immediately more comfortable and connected.” This is key to connecting to those who “didn’t grow up with Israel as part of their vocabulary,” she added. “We’re looking to extend our pool and stay close to our consumer market.”

In practice, that looks like trips that cater to scuba aficionados (all trip staff having diving licensees), adventure seekers, gourmands, techies, yogis, young professionals, LGBTQ folks and recovering addicts. Birthright’s new website, launched in September 2016, allows participants to filter through different trips by personal categories and interests. While a sprinkling of niche trips began seven years ago, today they consume 12 percent of the Birthright trip market, said Bauer.

The options are impressive. Taglit Gourmand is for French participants and includes food tastings and cooking classes. Innovation Nation is for those interested in Israel’s booming tech and start-up industries. The “urban” trip cuts down on the hiking in favor of city life, including an exploration of street graffiti, music and local marketplaces.

“This is part of a broader social trend compounded by the weakening attachment of Jews to being Jewish,” said Steven Cohen, sociologist and research professor at HUC-JIR. “It makes sense that young Jews are far more integrated, and far less concerned with matters of collective loyalty, Israel being a key one of them.”

The Birthright innovations belong in a larger context, he said. “Many Jewish educators, rabbis and leaders are combining Jewish experience with the other interest and identities of Jews they’d like to engage,” he said. While “capitalizing on peoples’ occupational identities” is far from a new trend in the Jewish non-profit world, the extent to which Birthright is putting this technique into practice speaks to a distinct generational shift, he said.

“We’re living in an era of radical choice,” he said, in which the individual is “increasingly a unit unto himself.”

Read more at The Jewish Week.

Updated: Feb. 06, 2017