The goal of the funding increase is to enable Taglit-Birthright Israel to bring 51,000 young Jewish adults annually on the 10-day free educational trip by 2013, which would mean that one in every two Jewish young adults worldwide will have gone to Israel on a Birthright Israel trip.
In 2010, 30,000 young adults participated in Birthright Israel trips, while some 30,000 others were waitlisted due to lack of funding capacity.
The announcement significantly increases the government’s funding; the Israeli government has given $100 million to Birthright Israel since its inception 10 years ago.
“Increasing the budget is a historic decision – to bring the majority of young Jewish people to Israel and enable every young Jewish person that wants to come here to be able to do so,” Netanyahu said, joined by founders Michael Steinhardt and Lynn Schusterman, addressing the cheering crowd of young adults from around the world currently in Israel on Birthright Israel trips.
“I am proud that I was the first Israeli prime minister who supported the Birthright Israel project. This bold idea is a great success. Today it is the way tens of thousands of young Jews from around the world strengthen their connection to Judaism and Israel.”
The Israeli government funding will grow annually, starting with approximately $26 million in 2011, $34 million in 2012 and $40 million in 2013. To match this commitment, the Israeli government expects a corresponding increase in funding for Birthright Israel from its other partners and donors in Jewish communities abroad. In the last two years, the Birthright Israel Foundation’s donor base has grown very significantly by 10,000 new donors, despite the economic downturn.
In light of the Israeli government announcement, leading Birthright Israel philanthropic supporters have pledged to do their share in seeing that the new targets are met.
The total 2011 budget of Taglit-Birthright Israel is $87 million, which includes the contribution of the Government of Israel, major philanthropists, partner organizations – the Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Agency for Israel – and an increasing number of individual donors.
“Taglit-Birthright Israel began as a vision of the Israeli government, philanthropists and Jewish communities, and in the course of the decade, it has become the most successful Zionist project in the Jewish world,” said Gidi Mark, CEO of Taglit-Birthright Israel.
“The government's decision to increase its support reflects our success in strengthening the connection between young Jews around the world and Israel and I’m sure that our partners will stand up to the challenge of the Israeli government.”
“This is a gratifying lead taken by the government and people of Israel,” said Robert P. Aronson, President of the Birthright Israel Foundation. “We hope our partners will follow this lead and continue to help us thrive in our second decade, as Birthright Israel becomes a rite of passage for every Jewish young adult.”
Since its inception in 2000, over a quarter million young adults from more than 53 countries have participated in the 10-day free educational trip to Israel along with some 50,000 Israeli young adults, most of them in the army, have accompanied Birthright groups in Israel. Over 70% of participants cite it as a “life-changing experience.”
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