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The Centennial Fund for a Jewish Future

Pittsburgh to Israel Via Birthright: Reinforcing Jewish Identity through the CFJF

July 5, 2011

It may not sound pretty on the surface. Ten days of intense travel in the desert. A foreign land thousands of miles from home. An unfamiliar language. But ask any Birthright participant and you'll understand that the experience brings about a true transformation . 

While research indicates that a positive experience in Israel impacts Jewish identity in a profound way, trips to Israel are expensive and difficult to organize. In fact, more than 400 local teens every year miss out on a valuable Israel experience based on financial constraints alone.

The Centennial Fund for a Jewish Future (CFJF), an endowment within the Federation's Jewish Community Foundation, has undertaken the challenge of engaging young Jews in activities that will enrich them and help them build enduring connections to Judaism and the Jewish community. And, thus,

CFJF leadership chose to make Israel-travel  for Pittsburgh's youth and young adults a top priority. By providing scholarship dollars for – or, in the case of Birthright, covering the entire cost of – an educational trip to Israel, the Fund makes this life-changing experience available to more young people. And, by facilitating greater participation in Birthright Israel - a ten-day, peer-group, educational trip – the CFJF is helping to inspire future leaders and strengthen their Jewish identity and connection to the Jewish people.

Birthright is designed exclusively for 18-26-year-olds who have never been on an organized trip to Israel. Bus-fulls of participants experience the country, history, and culture together. The statistics are staggering: this experience bonds Jewish young adults to their heritage and peers unlike any other. If the goal is Jewish continuity, Birthright works.

Israel travel almost doubles the likelihood of synagogue membership later in life and more than doubles the likelihood that young Jews see being Jewish as "very important." In fact, Birthright participants were 30% more likely than non-participants to view raising Jewish children as "very important."

If you know someone interested, or for more information, please contact Sharon Perelman at 412-992-5224 or sperelman@jfedpgh.org. It is our privilege to be a part of a process that results in our community's children traveling to Israel and experiencing a piece of our great history and tradition together. Their future is in our hands.