Birthright Israel Month was launched with a Mega Event in New York City last Wednesday, with over 1,000 alumni and 200 officials and guests. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg issued a formal proclamation at the event, declaring May 2011 as Birthright Israel Month.
"New York has always had a special bond with Israel and Jewish communities worldwide. No city has opened its doors more widely to the world than we have, and thanks to Birthright Israel, thousands of New Yorkers every year travel to Israel to reconnect with their heritage," he said.
"That is why New York City is proud to join this exemplary organization and the many young Jewish adults who have benefited from its generosity in celebrating Birthright Israel Month."
Taglit-Birthright. 'Jewish world's most successful Zionist project'
The month includes events in cities across North America for Birthright Israel alumni, special Birthright Shabbat celebrations at more than 100 synagogues, visits to communities by IDF soldiers who participated in Birthright Israel trips and special donor functions.
Birthright Israel Month is also aimed at raising awareness of the new goal of increasing participant numbers – from 30,000 a year today, to 51,000 annually by 2013, almost doubling the number young adults going on the Taglit-Birthright Israel trip. Reaching this new level of participants would mean that one of every two young Jewish adults will be able to go on a Birthright Israel trip.
“In the course of the decade, Taglit-Birthright Israel has become the most successful Zionist project in the Jewish world,” said Gidi Mark, CEO of Taglit-Birthright Israel. “The new goal of bringing 51,000 participants annually has the financial backing of the State of Israel and I’m sure as we celebrate Birthright Israel Month in North America the community will be inspired to join in making this goal a reality.”
Significantly, the new participant goal will enable the tens of thousands of applicants who are currently waitlisted the opportunity to go to Israel. Last year, for the 30,000 young adults who participated in Taglit-Birthright Israel trips, another 30,000 were waitlisted because of lack of funding. For trips this summer from North America alone, there was a record registration of 40,000 for only 15,000 available slots.
The ambitious timeline to reach the 51,000 participant goal was precipitated by the announcement of Israeli government in January that it would contribute $100 million to Taglit-Birthright Israel over the next three years. To match this commitment, the Israeli government expects a corresponding increase in funding from Birthright Israel’s partner organizations – the Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Agency for Israel – and from individual donors.
“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,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.
To meet its commitment, the Birthright Israel Foundation has announced an extremely ambitious financial goal: Increasing its fundraising this year by $10 million to $58.6 million and then increasing it by an additional $20 million next year in order reach participant goal for 2013.
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