First youth program group this summer heads to Israel

December 19, 2015 by Hayley Hadassin
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40 young adults from all over Australia and New Zealand have travelled to Israel on the first organised program during the Australian summer season. 

En route to Israel

En route to Israel

Chavaya program director Yehuda deDries said he was very excited about sending the group at a time some people are  worried about going to Israel.

Taglit-Birthright Israel is a visionary program that provides a gift of a 10-day educational tour of Israel for young Jewish adults aged 18-26. The Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA) represents the Australian Jewish community as the local partner in this unique global project.

Specifically targeting ‘non-affiliated’ young adults, the trips have been extremely successful, including creating long-term friendships, inspiring many people to return to Israel for longer visits and most excitedly, bringing together many Jewish relationships including seven marriages.

Itamar Shemer from Melbourne has been on the program and  said; – “It is an amazing experience. I would recommend it to anyone. Israel is a magnificent country that everyone should come to visit at least once in their lifetime and Taglit is the perfect way to go if you are 18-26!”

Multiple studies conducted by the Cohen Center of Brandies University, have demonstrated that Taglit-Birthright Israel directly and positively impacts on participants’ likelihood to marry Jewish, to their Jewish identity and to their connection to Israel. 71% of surveyed people who participated in US Birthright programs marry Jewish as opposed to 49% of non-participants. US Taglit participants were also 35% more likely than non-participants to feel confident in explaining the situation in Israel. It is remarkable that a 10 day trip to Israel can change not only a person’s future but that of the Jewish people.

“Birthright was an unforgettable experience for me. I was completely out of touch with anything to do with my Jewish heritage and was somewhat disinterested in anything to do with Judaism. Trips to Tzfat and Jerusalem sent literal chills down my spine in a way I can’t describe and gave me an immediate connection to this amazing country. In all honesty I was not an ardent supporter of Israel before experiencing it firsthand. Coming to our nation, meeting the people and getting engulfed in the country has made me realize how much of a necessity it is for us to have a nation. I will most definitely be back!!” Dean Szentes was also on the Chavaya bus and comes from New Zealand.

Tali Goldstein, who participated in Taglit-Birthright Israel from Sydney said: – “I learnt more about myself, life and Judaism in ten days than in the past ten years!”

Gandel Philanthropy has been the Principal Australian Supporter of the program for a number of years. “Gandel Philanthropy and Gandel family are committed to this program because evidence shows that it works. The trip not only helps foster and enhance Jewish continuity and identity, it also helps develop future leaders and champions in the Jewish community,” said Vedran Drakulic, CEO of Gandel Philanthropy.

“Gandel Philanthropy has underpinned our Australian Taglit-Birthright program for the past four years, thus affording hundreds of young Australian adults the unique opportunity of visiting Israel and seeing what Israel has to offer. We are delighted that Gandel Philanthropy sees this as the key program for both encouraging the support of Israel and Jewish education. They have distinguished themselves as leaders of Jewish philanthropy,” said ZFA President Dr Danny Lamm.

Shimmy Stauber from Queensland was surprised by the experience: – “Never in ten days would you think your life could change so drastically for the better… Wow!”

Since its inception in 2000, more than 400,000 young Jews from 67 countries around the world have taken part in the Taglit-Birthright Israel program.

The ZFA works together with several local program organisers to operate Taglit-Birthright Israel. By the end of 2015, more than 4020 Australians will have participated in this program.

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