J Street organizing its own college Israel trip


(JTA) — J Street is organizing its own Israel trip for Jewish college students after Birthright Israel declined to partner with it.

In a letter to J Street supporters, the organization announced that its campus arm, J Street U, would organize a trip to Israel and the West Bank for 10-15 student leaders this summer.

According to the fundraising letter, a donor agreed to match every dollar up to $15,000 to make the trip happen. J Street U director Daniel May signed the letter.

J Street, a liberal pro-Israel lobby, had begun promoting a trip at the end of January that would be undertaken in cooperation with Israel Experience, one of several tour providers used by Birthright. But Birthright told JTA that it nixed the idea for a J Street trip focusing on progressivism and social action when it was first presented months ago, saying it no longer works with organizations with Israel-related political leanings.

J Street said more than 100 students had expressed interest in the proposed Birthright trip.

"This isn’t just about J Street U’s politics and what happened to a single trip — it’s about ensuring that our community makes space for the part of our generation that won’t separate our passion for Israel from our commitments to justice, equality, inclusion, and democracy," read the letter, which was e-mailed Wednesday.
It added, "We know that many students are hesitant to participate in traditional Birthright trips. We know that many avoid a relationship with Israel out of a discomfort with traditional models of Israel education and engagement."

The trip will have "a particular focus on Israeli and Palestinian individuals and groups working for social justice, democracy and peace," said May, who also vowed to continue pursuing a trip under Birthright’s auspices.

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