To Birthright Israel and Beyond: A Message from Gil Preuss

To Birthright Israel and Beyond: A Message from Gil Preuss

It is one thing to talk about a sense of connection to Israel. It is a whole other thing to experience it.

That is the premise behind Birthright Israel trips. The 10-day adventure is all about taking the abstract concepts of Jewish identity, peoplehood, and, of course, Israel, and making them concrete. Somewhere between Shabbat in the Old City and late-night conversations with new Israeli friends, Birthright participants start to feel an intrinsic sense of connection to Israel and to the global Jewish people.

For many participants, the trip serves as their first encounter with Israel—and their first foray into Jewish life—as adults. It also represents a significant turning point for young Jews who may have grown up with little or no Jewish community affiliation.

To me, that is what makes Birthright Israel so successful. Just when the next generation of young Jews might be tempted to opt out of or turn away from Jewish life, Birthright Israel creates a moment of connection through a powerful shared experience. The trip serves as a much-needed spark, helping young Jews to jumpstart their Jewish journey and embrace their identity.

In other words, Birthright Israel is opening a lot of doors. Birthright is responsible for bringing almost half a million young Jews from around the world to Israel. To date, 69% of all young adults in Greater Washington who have traveled to Israel on an organized trip did so via Birthright. Notably, thanks to Birthright and a full range of Israel programs, more young Jewish adults have been to Israel than any previous generation.

At The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, we are eager to help all who are interested to take advantage of the opportunity to visit Israel on a Birthright Israel trip.

Registration for Birthright Israel trips with Shorashim and the DC community is now open. We will be hosting a trip for participants ages 22-26 from June 13 – June 24. For the first time ever, we will also be hosting a trip for participants ages 27-32 from May 26 – June 3. Learn more and apply now.

Just as importantly, we are thinking about how we can continue to engage the hundreds of alumni who return to DC every year eager to explore their Jewish identity and their relationship with Israel. Through programs run by organizations like Gather DC, One Table, and others, we are building on the momentum of an immersive one-time experience and ensuring that our community can offer young Jews the stepping stones they need to continue their Jewish journeys.

As a community, we work hard to engage young Jewish adults in ways that are accessible, attractive, and relevant to their needs and interests. It is our responsibility to provide opportunities of substance, ones that help them to wrestle with difficult questions and consider their role in our community and the world.

After all, today’s young Jews are the architects of the future. They will be the ones to evolve our relationship with Israel. They will be the ones to keep and expand Jewish traditions. They will be the ones who take up the mantle of leadership and open the doors for those that follow.

Shabbat Shalom,