Registration for the trip, which closed February 22 after only seven days, represents both the highest number of applicants from North America and the shortest registration period.
The number of applicants still far outpaces the funding capacity of Taglit-Birthright Israel for the free, 10-day educational trips for Jewish young adults ages 18 through 26. Taglit-Birthright Israel estimates it currently has funding to send 15,000 young adults of the 40,000 registered from North America for trips between May and August.
In all, Taglit-Birthright Israel will bring 33,000 young adults to Israel during 2011 on summer and winter trips, from more than 50 countries around the world.
Calling it “the most successful project in the Jewish world,” Israel’s Minister of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Yoel Edelstein, who serves as chairman of Taglit-Birthright Israel’s steering committee, hailed the new application figures.
“We see Taglit-Birthright Israel turning into a real rite of passage for a majority of young Jews worldwide and we hope many thousands more will come to Israel.”
Taglit-Birthright Israel has set the goal of sending 51,000 young Jewish adults annually by 2013, which means that one in every two Jewish young adults worldwide would participate in a Birthright Israel trip. In January, the Government of Israel announced it would contribute $100 million in funding over the next three years to assist Birthright Israel achieve that goal.
1,000 sign up within 1st minute
“We again see how strong the demand for the Taglit-Birthright Israel trip is and each year the demand keeps growing,” said Taglit-Birthright Israel CEO Gidi Mark.
“At the same time, the historic decision of the Government of Israel is also a challenge for our partners – to meet the bar set by the government and invest in the future of so many thousands of young Jews around the world who are simply waiting to go on the trips.”
When registration opened to new applicants online on February 15, 1,000 individuals began signing up within the first minute.
“Our goal to bring one in every two young adults to Israel is readily achievable in terms of the demand; we could do it this year if we had the funding,” said Birthright Israel Foundation President Robert P. Aronson.
To achieve the 2013 goal, Birthright Israel needs to match the Israeli government’s increased commitment and raise corresponding funds from individual donors. This is a challenge for the donors of the Birthright Israel Foundation – whose numbers have grown very significantly by 10,000 in the last two years, despite the economic downturn -- as well as from partner organizations, the Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Agency for Israel.
The data from the registration shows that Birthright Israel applicants come predominantly from Reform or unaffiliated backgrounds. Asked to describe their religious affiliation, 41% of applicants said they were Reform; 26% said “just Jewish”; 21%, Conservative; 4%, Orthodox and 8%, other. Fifty seven percent of applicants are ages 18 through 21; while 43% are age 22 through 26.
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