|Purpose||Jewish heritage trip|
President and CEO
Chair, Executive Committee
|Philip de Toledo|
|$46.9 million (2011)|
Taglit-Birthright Israel (Hebrew: תגלית), also known as Birthright Israel or simply Birthright, is free ten-day heritage trip to Israel, Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights for young adults of Jewish heritage between the ages of 18 and 26. The program is sponsored by the Birthright Israel Foundation, whose donors subsidizes participation.
Taglit is the Hebrew word for 'discovery'. During their trip, participants, most of whom are visiting Israel for the first time, are encouraged to discover new meaning in their personal Jewish identity and connection to Jewish history and culture.
Since the program's first trip in 1999, more than 800,000 young Jews from 68 countries in the Jewish diaspora have participated in Birthright Israel. It is the largest educational tourism organization in the world.
Participation in Birthright Israel is a cornerstone of modern Jewish life and has been called a rite of passage for young Jews. Pew Research estimated that by 2020, around 20% of American Jews ages 18–46 had participated in Birthright. Birthright has been called the most influential organization in relations between Israel and the Jewish diaspora.
The Birthright Israel program was founded in 1994 by philanthropists Charles Bronfman and Michael Steinhardt in cooperation with the Israeli government, the Jewish Agency for Israel, and Jewish diaspora communities, with the first program trip in 1999. The purpose of Birthright was to strengthen diaspora Jews' connection to Israel and increase a sense of Jewish identity, in response to the 1990 National Jewish Population Survey.
By 2007, annual capacity had increased to 20,000 participants a year. That year, the late Sheldon Adelson pledged $25 million to Birthright Israel to take applicants off waiting lists and to increase annual capacity to 37,000 for 2007 and 2008.
Birthright launched Birthright NEXT in 2007 as a post-trip follow-up program. One NEXT initiative was I.D., in which Birthright Israel alumni would perform monologues based on their experiences. Ultimately, a lack of funding for alumni programs in the face of an increased emphasis on youth Israel trips led NEXT to shut down by 2015.
In 2010, Birthright launched an extension program called Birthright Excel. Birthright Excel is a 10-week summer program where students can either create a venture or intern with a business.
The number of participants averaged approximately 45,000 per year, with about 80% from the United States and Canada. After peaking at more than 48,000 participants in 2018, only 35,000 participants attended a Birthright Israel trip in 2022. Due to budgetary cuts, only 23,500 participants were anticipated to participate in the program in 2023.
In 2022, Birthright Israel merged with Onward Israel, part of the Jewish Agency, which offers programs for young adults to travel to Israel for 6to 10 weeks to live, work and study.
In 2023, Birthright had its first second-generation participant.
To participate, individuals must have at least one parent of recognized Jewish descent or who have converted to Judaism through a recognized Jewish movement, and who do not actively practice another religion. They must also be between the ages of 18 and 26, have completed high school, have never traveled to Israel on a peer educational trip or study program after the age of 18, and have not lived in Israel for more than 3 months after the age of 12.
Between 2017 and 2022, Birthright raised the upper age limit for eligibility to 32 to reflect the broader cultural shift of young adults delaying major life decisions like getting married and having children.
Trips are organized by different organizations and companies accredited by Birthright Israel, which sets the logistical, educational, and security standards. All groups are led by licensed Israeli tour guides and are accompanied by an armed security guard. Tours may vary according to age group and the religious background of the participants. Trips may be geared for graduate students, undergraduates at a particular university, participants from a particular city, participants who identify with a particular stream of Judaism, tours for hiking or music enthusiasts, and a diverse array of other interests, such as trips for the LGBTQ community, campus trips and accessibility trips.
A Birthright Israel trip lasts for 10 days, including travel to and from Israel. Tours travel throughout Israel and Jerusalem to religious and cultural sites, including the Western Wall and the Dead Sea. Trips also often include a Mega Event for all participants featuring speeches by dignitaries, including the Israeli Prime Minister, and musical performances by popular Israeli artists.
The tours also include a 5- to 10-day mifgash (Hebrew for 'encounter') with Israeli peers, usually soldiers serving in the Israel Defense Forces. The stated purpose for the mifgash is for the participants and the soldiers to get to know each other and to better understand each other's worldview and Jewish identity. Guided discussion sessions explore topics such as the Jewish tradition in the modern world, how Jewish life in Israel differs from Jewish life abroad, and how mandatory military service impacts young Israelis' perceptions of service and commitment to their country. More than 115,000 Israelis have participated in the mifgash program since 2000.
The cost for each participant, approximately $4,500 as of 2020, is covered by a variety of funding sources. According to Birthright Israel, 67% of funding comes from individual donors, 27% from the Israeli government, 3% from Jewish federations, and 3% from the Jewish Agency.
The program's largest individual donors have been Sheldon Adelson and Miriam Adelson, who had given more than $250 million to Birthright Israel by 2015. Other major donors include prominent philanthropists Charles Bronfman, Edgar Bronfman, Sr., Daniel Och, Marlene Post, Lynn Schusterman, and Michael Steinhardt. The program also receives funding from the German government through the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
Impact on Jewish identity
- Birthright participants were 16 percentage points more likely to have a Jewish partner than similar nonparticipants.
- Birthright increased participants’ likelihood of engagement in Jewish life.
- One out of four Birthright participants marry another Birthright participant.
Birthright has been called the most influential organization in relations between Israel and the Jewish diaspora. Sociologist Shaul Kelner of Vanderbilt University described Birthright Israel as a diaspora-building enterprise" to "ensure the continued existence of vibrant, Israel-oriented Jewish communities abroad."
According to a Pew Research study in 2020, there was an 85% increase in American participants who reported attachment to Israel after the trip, a 54% increase in feelings of belonging to the Jewish people, and a 58% increase in feeling closer to their Israeli counterparts. In addition, there was an 160% increase in participants' desire to have a Jewish spouse.
Impact on Israeli economy
According to a study by Ernst and Young, Birthright Israel had contributed more than $1.1 billion to the Israeli economy by 2016, including $840 million in hotel, tourism, and flights revenue, and $325 million in participant spending. During the two main period when Birthright trips are operating, Birthright participants make up as many as 12% of tourists in the country.
Inspiration for other heritage trips
Birthright Israel has inspired similar heritage programs for other diasporas, including Birthright Armenia for the Armenian diaspora, ReConnect Hungary for young adults of the Hungarian diaspora in the U.S. and Canada, Birthright Greece for the Greek diaspora, and Domovina Birthright Program for Croatians. Birthright also loosely inspired CubaOne Foundation for Cuban-Americans and Birthright Africa for young Americans of African descent, which was founded in 2015.
In 2022, college basketball coach Bruce Pearl launched "Birthright for College Basketball," a 10-day trip bringing American college men's basketball teams to Israel. In 2023, the trip included a stop in the UAE.
The pro-Palestinian Jewish Voice for Peace runs a campaign called Return the Birthright, which criticizes the Birthright Israel program and urges young Jews to boycott it, stating: "it's unjust that we get a free Birthright trip, while Palestinian refugees can't return to their homes". 
Birthright Unplugged was founded in 2014 to counterbalance Birthright Israel, with the goal of exposing Jewish and non-Jewish visitors to Palestinian communities inside and outside of Israel.[better source needed] In response, Birthright has added optional activities involving Israeli Arabs.
- Lapin, Andrew (2022-03-08). "Seeking to spur college student travel, Birthright Israel to lower its age limit back to 26". Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
- "Birthright Israel | A Free Trip to Israel | Taglit – Birthright Israel".
- Abramson, Yehonatan (2019). "Securing the diasporic 'self' by travelling abroad: Taglit-Birthright and ontological security". Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies. 45 (4): 656–673. doi:10.1080/1369183X.2017.1409176. ISSN 1369-183X. S2CID 149232197.
- Getz, Philip (Fall 2011). "The Birthright Challenge". Jewish Review of Books. Retrieved 13 August 2023.
- Zieve, Tamara (December 28, 2017). "Jewish group pumps $1m. into Birthright to boost participation of Russian-speakers". The Jerusalem Post. Archived from the original on April 3, 2015. Retrieved 4 August 2021.
- "Birthright celebrates 800,000 participants since it began". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2023-01-13.
- Stockman, Farah (2019-06-11). "Birthright Trips, a Rite of Passage for Many Jews, Are Now a Target of Protests". New York Times. Retrieved 13 August 2023.
- Saxe, Leonard (2022-12-02). "The Reach and Impact of Birthright Israel: What We Can Learn from Pew's "Jewish Americans in 2020"". Contemporary Jewry. doi:10.1007/s12397-022-09467-6. S2CID 254219231. Retrieved 2023-01-30.
- "Taglit-Birthright 'most influential organization' in Diaspora-Israel relations". Israel Hayom. 2023-02-23. Retrieved 13 August 2023.
- "Publications". www.brandeis.edu.
- "Birthright participants feel closer to Israel, Judaism after trip - Pew". Jerusalem Post. 2022-11-15. Retrieved 13 August 2023.
- "Richest US Jew pledges USD 25 million to Taglit – birthright israel". Ynetnews. 2 June 2007.
- Leiter, Robert (25 April 2013). "Birthright Alumni: Raw on the Stage". Jewish Exponent.
- Berkman, Seth (November 6, 2012). "Birthright Reshuffles Follow-Up Effort". Archived from the original on June 23, 2015.
- Ain, Stewart (April 30, 2015). "New Program Will Replace NEXT". New York Jewish Week. Retrieved 2 August 2021.
- www.proteam.co.il. "Excel". taglitww.birthrightisrael.com. Archived from the original on 2017-08-15. Retrieved 2017-08-14.
- "Taglit – Birthright Israel". taglitww.birthrightisrael.com. Archived from the original on 2017-08-15. Retrieved 2017-08-14.
- "Manufacturing Innovation: Birthright Excel Ventures". Jewlicious. 2016-08-30. Retrieved 2017-08-14.
- Lapin, Andrew (2022-11-22). "Birthright Israel to scale back again, slashing number of free trips by up to a third". Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
- "Onward Israel merges with Birthright to magnify reach and increase impact". 2022-01-07.
- "Birthright Israel welcomes first second-generation participant". Jewish Chronicle. 2023-05-16. Retrieved 13 August 2023.
- "Birthright Israel to lower its age limit back to 26". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2023-01-13.
- "Taglit-Birthright Israel: Frequently Asked Questions". Archived from the original on 2008-02-28. Retrieved 2008-02-28.
- Lovett, Ian (2017-12-06). "Birthright Israel Raises Eligibility Age to 32". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2017-12-07.
- "Niche Trips". Birthright Israel. The Birthright Israel Foundation. Archived from the original on 26 February 2015. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
- Zelaya, Ian (16 January 2014). "Taglit-Birthright offers 12-day Tech Challenge". Washington Jewish Week. ProQuest 1492727606.
- Elis, Niv (24 July 2014). "Despite sirens, visiting techies keep coding. 'I'm more worried about getting lost in TA than rockets,' hacking competitor says". Jerusalem Post. ProQuest 1551320897.
- "Taglit – FAQ". Retrieved 27 October 2013.
- Zohar Blumenkrantz (August 6, 2003). "El Al to fly in 5,000 under Birthright project". Haaretz. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
- "Taglit-Birthright Israel How to Choose a Trip Organizer?". Archived from the original on 2008-12-19. Retrieved 2009-01-08.
- Feldman, Kiera (15 June 2011). "The Romance of Birthright Israel". The Nation. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
- Taglit-Birthright Israel CEO Report (2001)
- "Safety and Security Update" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on December 17, 2010.
- "The Cost of a Priceless Trip to Israel for Jewish Young Adults". Birthright Israel Foundation. Retrieved 2023-01-30.
- "Adelson, Azrieli Foundations Award $45 Million to Birthright Israel". Philanthropy News Digest (PND). The Foundation Center. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
- Adelson Foundation Gives Taglit An Extra $5 Million Boost, by Elad Benari, Israel National News, December 1, 2011
- Saxe, Leonard. "Jewish Futures Project. Birthright Israel's First Decade of Applicants: A Look at the Long-term Program Impact". Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies. Brandeis University. Retrieved 2023-01-30.
- Maltz, Judy (12 June 2013). "Birthright Alumni Marry Later – and Are More Likely to Marry Jewish". Haaretz.
- Ziri, Danielle (2016-10-21). "Birthright program contributed over $1 billion to Israeli economy, study shows". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 13 August 2023.
- Reich, Aaron (2020-06-15). "Cancellation of Masa, Birthright due to COVID-19 to cost Israel $200m". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 13 August 2023.
- "National Hellenic Society Develops Heritage Greece Program". Orthodox Observer. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. 2 February 2017.
- Jeremy Gillick (5 May 2008). "Birthright Israel, Meet Birthright Armenia". Archived from the original on 12 May 2008.
- Compton, Natalie (2022-03-09). "Birthright to Israel and beyond: 7 trips to explore your roots". Washington Post.
- "Our Story". Birthright Africa. Retrieved 2023-01-27.
- Gurvis, Jacob (2023-08-08). "Arizona and Kansas State men's basketball teams are headed to Israel and the UAE for Abraham Accords-inspired trip". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Retrieved 13 August 2023.
- Kraft, Dina (January 22, 2008). "'Sopranos' star on birthright discovers her Jewish spirit". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved March 10, 2014.
- Lapin, Andrew (2022-10-21). "Prominent Jewish YouTuber Ethan Klein makes Holocaust joke about Ben Shapiro, leading to his suspension". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Retrieved 13 August 2023.
- Spiro, Amy (2017-08-07). "Child movie star finds faith in Israel". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 13 August 2023.
- Come, see Palestine! Upstart tours of Palestine are challenging fully paid "See Israel" holidays in a battle for the hearts and minds of young American Jews Rachel Shabi, Salon.com, Jun 5, 2006
- "FAQ". Birthright Israel. Retrieved 13 August 2023.
- "Jewish Voice for Peace urges young Jews to reject Birthright trips". Times of Israel. 2017-09-04. Retrieved 13 August 2023.
- "Jewish Voice for Peace urges young Jews to boycott Birthright Israel". haaretz.com. 2017-09-02. Retrieved 2018-10-04.
- "Mission – Birthright Unplugged". www.birthrightunplugged.org.