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Frequently Asked Questions
There are so many options. How do I begin to decide which trip to attend?
Although many trip descriptions and trip organizers sound very similar, in reality each offers their own unique spin on the Birthright Israel experience. We encourage you to spend some time doing research on both the trip you are interested in and the trip provider who is organizing that trip. Ensure that the orientation of the trip provider is aligned with your personal orientation so that you have confidence that your experience will meet your expectations. Unsure about a specific trip organizer? Do a google search of their name and Birthright and scroll beyond the first few results to see reviews that others have posted online. Ask your Rabbi, Cantor, Educator, or Youth Professional for advice on who they might recommend.
What questions should I ask my trip provider directly before deciding which trip to attend?
As mentioned above, we encourage you to do research into trip providers before selecting a trip. The best way to learn more is to speak with the providers directly, either by phone or email. Below are some questions we suggest asking when you reach out:
- What organization(s) are you affiliated with? (i.e. Some organizers are part of religious movements like Chabad or Orthodoxy, while others are independent. It is important to know what organization(s) your trip provider is affiliated with because it will let you know whether they are aligned with your personal values.)
- With whom do you typically partner? (i.e. Some organizers bring on partners from across the religious spectrum, others focus on specific denominations, and still others rarely partner with anyone at all! It is important to know who your trip provider partners with because this will tell you the orientation of the organization, and will allow you to understand if it aligns with your personal orientation.)
- Who is your typical staff member? (i.e. Some organizers bring on Jewish educators and Rabbis to staff trips, while others encourage young alumni to staff trips. Understanding the type of staff members will let you know how in depth you may be able to go with specific trip content.)
- What are your organization’s values? (i.e. Each trip organizer will answer this for themselves, and it will allow you to understand whether they are aligned with your own values.)
I want to attend with friends. How do we make sure we are on the same trip?
Once you select a trip organizer and a trip, the process to ensure your friends are on the same trip is relatively easy. First, make sure your friends register for the same trip and go through the full process, including putting down a deposit. Once you all complete this step, you will receive information from your trip organizer about a secondary application which asks additional questions like your dietary needs, your health information and if there are any friends you’d like to attend with. This is your chance to share all of the details, including to select which friends should be on the same trip as you. Note that most organizers only allow you to select friends who are also registered and have paid their deposit, so it is especially important that your friends all complete those steps at the same time as you.
How can I make the most of my Birthright Israel experience?
One of the best ways to approach your Birthright Israel experience is to come into it with an open mind. Consider some of the following questions:
- What do I know about Israel’s history?
- How is Israel connected to my Jewish journey so far?
- What kind of personal connection to Israel do I currently feel?
- What kind of connection am I hoping to create on my trip?
Take a look at ReformJudaism.org’s Israel section, where you can learn about the history of Israel and where it sits in modern day society from a variety of perspectives, including political, arts and cultural, and more. We recommend checking out this article on Reform Judaism in Israel to understand how the Reform Movement is different in Israel than in the United States, as well as this article on religious pluralism in Israel to help understand some of the political details of where the Reform Movement fits in Israeli society today. Take a look at the Reform Movement in Israel’s website to learn more, as well as the Israel Religious Action Center, which focuses on civil and human rights issues in Israel.
Familiarize yourself with ARZA, the Association of Reform Zionists of America, the organization connected to the Reform Movement that works to lead Reform Zionism in the United States through advocacy and education both here and in Israel. We particularly love the “Mah Zeh Infographics” that help to break down various topics like how the government of Israel operates and different Jewish labels for people in Israel.
If you are extending your trip, consider attending Shabbat services at one of the 50 Reform congregations around the country. They are all vibrant and friendly places who would love to welcome you. Find the list of congregations here and send them an email to give them a heads up that you will be joining them!
When I come back, how do I stay involved with Israel?
There are so many ways! Get on ARZA’s mailing list. Look for what is happening about Israel locally. Does your community, Temple or Hillel have information on organized Israel activities? Is there a Shaliach (Israeli emissary) anywhere in your community? (Not sure? Ask the staff at your Hillel, with your Temple, or with other Jewish organizations in your community.)
Read book about Israel. Here are a few we like:
More curious about the beginnings of Zionism? Start with Herzl’s vision for the potential of a modern Jewish community in the ancient homeland –
Altneuland: The Old-New-Land
Just like today, there have always been so many opinions about what Israel should be. Zionism has always been diverse, from the beginning –
The Zionist Idea: A Historical Analysis and Reader
The so-called Arab-Israeli conflict is not easy to navigate. This recent, eye-opening historical analysis speaks to the source of the tension-
Year Zero of the Arab-Israeli Conflict 1929
Birthright won’t take you into areas across the Green Line, but Israeli author and journalist Nir Baram can do that for you –
A Land Without Borders: My Journey Around East Jerusalem and the West Bank
The relationship between the Jewish American community and Israel is a critical topic. Two books look at the situation from a progressive place of caring:
Trouble in the Tribe: The American Jewish Conflict over Israel
The Crisis of Zionism
Watch Israeli movies. They are a great way to continue one’s touring of Israel. And, Israel is becoming known for the high quality of its filmmaking. A good feature movie can bring you into the lives of Israelis past and present; a good documentary can teach about some of the most important issues facing Israel and the grassroots efforts to work on those issues. Here are links for highly-recommended, recent movies and Israeli TV programs, many of which are available through streaming on Netflix, Amazon Prime and through the Israeli Film Center:
Gett (Feature Film)
Zero Motivation (Feature Film)
The Lemon Tree (Feature Film)
Waltz With Bashir (Animated Feature Film)
Footnote (Feature Film)
Broken Wings (Feature Film)
A Borrowed Identity (Feature Film)
The Women’s Balcony (Feature Film)
The Matchmaker (Feature Film)
Yossi and Jagger (Feature Film)
Noodle (Feature Film)
What other Reform Movement opportunities exist for college students?
The URJ has several programs and opportunities for college students to be connected to Reform Jewish life. Serving as staff at one of our 17 URJ Summer Camps, being part of the Religious Action Center’s Machon Kaplan summer learning program, or staffing NFTY events during the year are exciting and transformative experiences for college students. For activities on campus, HUC-JIR’s Founders Fellows gives students support and training to expand Reform Judaism on campus, MRJ’s Reform on Campus grants help bring student programs to life, and the URJ’s Campus grants make doing Jewish easy and meaningful. And for resources, check out ReformJudaism.org’s College Life page to find ideas for staying connected to Jewish life on campus. If you have any questions about Reform Jewish life on campus, reach out and let us know!
Questions for Stakeholders
I want to give priority status to a young adult. How do I do that?
For most trips, young adults can register and generally expect to be accepted onto that trip. Priority status is no longer something that we are able to offer, nor is it something that is generally necessary assuming a participant registers during the normal registration period.
I want to staff a Birthright Israel trip. How do I do that?
We know that Reform professionals and lay leaders are in high demand, as we often represent the best-of-the-best when it comes to staffing a Birthright Israel trip. For more details on staffing, visit our staffing page.
I work with college students. How can I be involved with the URJ’s college engagement efforts?
If you’re interested in learning more and participating in the URJ’s college engagement efforts, please email Evan Traylor, Presidential Fellow for Millennial Engagement.”