Our eighth grade recently returned from a transformational two-week Israel trip through our school and with Ramah International. As a head of school (K-8) and Israel trip educator, my dream is to start a new division of Taglit [Birthright Israel] or find a way to start an independent model with Ramah or another trip provider based on the successes we see. Your article “Boost for Birthright Funding” (Jan. 21) is inspiring me to think about liberal Jewish education in the future: it has to be Israel-centered.
Birthright bar and bat mitzvah trips for families and/or 8th grade Birthright trips that provide for and demand follow-up in high school — maybe even in college — would be a way to get an entire family connected to Israel and for us to implant a love of Israel in our youth when they are most impressionable. Educators who understand that age bracket could create fantastic, informal, educational and exciting programs.
I wish I knew who could provide the tzedakah for such endeavors, because I think that we are missing an opportunity to fund the Birthright programs that would get middle school kids and their families connected. With Israel as an inspiration, Jewish identity would blossom and Israel advocacy would be bolstered. The right follow-up trips and programs would be even more transformational.
Head of School
Reuben Gittelman Hebrew Day School
New City, N.Y.