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Birthright Israel Month Launched in New York

NYC's Mayor Bloomberg launches Birthright Israel Month, celebrating 11 years of free Heritage tours for Jewish youth worldwide to Israel.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 5/5/2011, 3:30 AM / Last Update: 5/5/2011, 4:15 AM

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Birthright Israel Month, which celebrates Taglit-Birthright Israel’s trips for Jewish young adults, is officially being launched on Wednesday evening (Eastern Daylight Time) in New York City.

Approximately 1,000 alumni and 200 officials and guests are expected to attend the Mega Event, during which New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will be issuing a formal proclamation, declaring May 2011 as Birthright Israel Month.

In the proclamation, Mayor Bloomberg will declare: “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. 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.”

Birthright Israel Month will highlight 11 years of achievement and will raise awareness for Birthright’s new goal of sending 51,000 participants worldwide annually to Israel by 2013.

Some 200 events will take place throughout the month of May in communities and synagogues across North America. The month will include 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.

“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.”

Birthright Israel offers Jewish adults between the ages of 18 to 26 the gift of a free, ten-day trip to Israel. The trip aims to strengthen each participant’s identity as a Jew, build an understanding, friendship and lasting bond with the land and people of Israel, and to reinforce the solidarity of the Jewish people worldwide.

In the decade since its inception, Birthright Israel has brought over 250,000 Jewish young adults to Israel from over 50 countries, from all 50 U.S. States and all Canadian Provinces and Territories, including students at nearly 1,000 North American college campuses.

This past January, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced an increase in the budget for Birthright. The government will provide NIS 90 million for the program in 2013, with further increases to NIS 120 million and NIS 140 million in the following two years. During its first ten years of existence, Israel’s government spent about NIS 100 million altogether on Taglit. Besides the Israeli government, the program is also supported by donors.

The IDF also takes an active part in the Birthright tours, with army soldiers accompanying the Birthright participants and helping them feel at home during their trips. To date, approximately 40,000 IDF soldiers have taken part in Birthright tours.

Birthright’s 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 people, yet there are only 15,000 available slots.