Wednesday, July 8, 2009

How Jewish Is Birthright?

This article about how Birthright insists on muting the message is terribly disturbing.

If the Jewish kids/young adults don't hear about the importance of aliyah, marrying Jewish and having Jewish kids from Birthright, where will they hear it?
"But Lifshitz’s “message,” alumni say he routinely pushes aliyah, pressures participants to date only Jews and
stresses that they should “make Jewish babies,” has drawn criticism over the years. And this week, citing new restrictions forced on him by Birthright officials, Lifshitz, 53, a secular, nationalist former Israeli army officer whose office is based in Kfar Saba, cut his ties with the popular trips, formally withdrawing from the winter ‘09-’10 trip season."

Why mute the message?

17 comments:

Risa Tzohar said...

Birthright has many 'subcontractors' some of whom are extremely successfulin getting the message across. I am guessing that there is probably a lot more involved in thi$ than ideology.

Batya said...

I guess that this subcontractor had enough. I wonder if the others who try to make it more religiouis or Zionist are having trouble.

Anonymous said...

Follow the money trail and you'll know why they're suppressing Judaism.

Batya said...

True, shy, the Israel they're selling isn't ours.

Hadassa said...

Shalom!
Perhaps parents - and wealthy contributors - are complaining that participants want to be too religious and/or live in Israel?
A rav from Beit El recently commented that his program for overseas college students was removed from the "acceptable" list of a certain organization (whose name I can't remember) because parents were upset by the large numbers of their children who remained in Israel. The students were from religious backgrounds.

Batya said...

Hadassa, no great surprise. Years ago when I worked for the Shiloh Hesder Yeshiva I got a call from a NY rabbi complaining that a parent had called him, because the son was planning aliyah. He wanted me to discourage the son. I called the father, calmed him down. I've never forgiven the rabbi. The father then accepted his son's aliyah and got closer to his son as a result.

Hadassa said...

Shalom!
On the flip side of that NY rabbi, I've seen comments from many rabbis lamenting that they would like to encourage their congregations to make aliya, but then they'd be out of a job. What a horrible situation! Should they continue giving their congregations the general guidance they apparently desperately need or should they pack up, move to Israel and hope that others follow?
Friends from Netzer Hazani, whose parents do live in Israel, related that when they were in Bnei Akiva in America some of their friends' parents had said to the staff, "We'll give you anything you want, just don't encourage our children to move to those funny little farms (kibbutzim?) in Israel."

Daniel said...

my son went on the first special needs birthright. It was last year and was run by Taglit and set up by Chabad.

Batya said...

Daniel, that must have been very special.

Hadassa, no surprise that the rabbis think of their own jobs and don't want to make aliyah with their congregations.

Daniel said...

Muse,
It was. Two Chabad shlichim et al accompanied the young adults. One of them - Zev BarAm -had tutored Avi for his Bar Mitzvah ceremony 5 years earlier. He now runs the Philly Friendship Circle.
My wife considered accompanying them, but we decided that she would get in the way of Avi bonding with the other attendees.
In general, I feel that the money spent on Birthright could be better spent (i.e. DaySchools), but this was money well spent.

Daniel said...

Muse,

for more info:

http://www.njjewishnews.com/njjn.com/032708/mwBirthrightOpensCircle.html

If Israelis had as much public relations seichal as galus Jews do, this would have been big news in Israel

Batya said...

Daniel, I think I read about it, but considering how much I read, I couldn't say where.
Your point about day schools is good, but for many of the Birthright participants, it wouldn't be an option. I don't know statistics, but it would be interesting to check how many went to some sort of Jewish after school activity and for how many years.
ps We have family in both Livingston and Verona! You can email me if you're curious.

MIchael said...

Why don't you just look at the list of Birthright trip providers here and you'll see that among them are Aish haTorah, NCSY, and Livnot. To imply that they are trying to prevent a religious message is ridiculous. If someone wants a more religious trip, the option is available.

Batya said...

That's true, but Birthright should give a strong Jewish message to those who aren't looking for a religious group. This guy was trying. It's not enough to preach to the converted.

josh said...

who are we to say that "Birthright should give a strong Jewish message"? We are not donating money to the them. They can do what they want.

Some kids that come on Birthright, take advantage of the free ticket, stay in Israel and do "Birthright Unplugged" or other similar pro-Arab projects.

Batya said...

The official goal of Birthright:
" to strengthen the sense of solidarity among world Jewry; and to strengthen participants' personal Jewish identity and connection to the Jewish people."
http://judaism.about.com/od/americanjewry/a/birthright.htm

Hadassa said...

Shalom!
Muse, I think that some rabbis want to hold onto their jobs so that their congregations won't be totally bereft of anything Jewish. Not all rabbis are thinking only of their own families when they don't want to leave their congregations. And if they can't even speak about aliya, who's going to join them on their aliya?