Ten Days of Birthright Israel: A Journey in Young Adult Identity

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Overview

Since 2000, nearly one hundred fifty thousand young adult Jews have participated in Birthright Israel, conceived to curb assimilation by shifting an entire generation of Diaspora Jews from a trajectory of noninvolvement with the Jewish community to one of identity and engagement. birthright israel is a free ten-day educational experience available to any young adult Jew between the ages of eighteen and twenty-six. Most of those who have received the “gift” to reconnect with their heritage have been from North America and demand for the program has far exceeded available slots. Dozens of organizations served as trip sponsors, from campus-based Hillels, to youth movements, to private educational tour companies. Each group implemented a carefully planned model of experiential education that involved exposure to ancient and modern history, as well as to the people of Israel. Key to the program is participation of Israeli peers who spend half or more of the trip with their Diaspora counterparts.

Although Birthright Israel’s focus is parochial, with an emphasis on Jewish identity, the program provides a fascinating social laboratory in which to understand young adults’ religious/ethnic identity and the impact of educational experiences. As a study of ethnic identity formation in postmodern society, it illuminates important lessons about how intensive exposure to one’s heritage can be a catalyst for identity formation, as well as how educational programs can be made more engaging and effective.

With Leonard Saxe and Barry Chazan serving as tour guides and interpreters, this story and analysis of Birthright Israel unfolds in ten chapters that parallel the ten days of the trip. This structure showcases the experiences of the participants, bringing them vividly to life, and shows how the program’s effects may well last far beyond the time they spend together in Israel.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“…the book is a success…Recommended.”—Choice

“Readers will come away feeling that those parts of this book that are devoted to portraits of the participants in all aspects of Birthright Israel and what happens to them are enlightening and worthy of attention. Those who are unfamiliar with the program will be enriched by reading about this bold effort to insure Jewish continuity.”—Jerusalem Post

“[Ten Days of Birthright Israel] is pleasurable to read and highly recommended to those interested in a synthesis of the ambitious research into this impressive educational effort. It is to be hoped that this valuable evaluation will continue to track this program and its long-term sociological and pedagogical impact will be assessed.”—American Jewish History

“[Saxe and Chazan] provide an informative insiders’ account of how Birthright has become an agency that works with 30 different organizations to design and administer trips tailored to different types of young Jews (religious, secular, LGBT, environmentalist, etc.) from 56 countries.”—Jewish Book Review

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Product Details

Meet the Author

LEONARD SAXE is Professor of Jewish Community Research and Social Policy at Brandeis University and co-author of “How Goodly are thy Tents”: Summer Camps as Jewish Socializing Experiences (Brandeis, 2003). BARRY CHAZAN is Professor of Jewish Education at Spertus College and Professor of Education Emeritus at Hebrew University. He was the chief architect of Birthright Israel’s educational curriculum.
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Table of Contents

1 Next Year in Jerusalem 1

2 Dreams Realized and Shattered: Israel in the Mind of American Jews 19

3 Sites and Sights 33

4 A People Revolution 52

5 Shared Encounters 72

6 Pedagogy for People 94

7 An Organizational Culture 115

8 Participants and Evaluation 137

9 Participants' Voices 155

10 The Tenth Day: What We Learned 171

Notes 187

Bibliography 199

Acknowledgments 209

Index 213

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