(JNS.org) The Taglit-Birthright Israel program has expanded eligibility for its free 10-day trips to Israel for Jewish young adults ages 18-26, JNS.org has learned. Teenagers who went on an educational trip to Israel during high school were previously not eligible for Birthright trips, but can now participate, confirmed Noa Bauer, Birthright’s vice president of international marketing.
Birthright’s eligibility guidelines previously stated, “If you have been to Israel before but only with your family or on other personal business, you are still eligible. However, if you have been to Israel as part of a touring group, educational program, study program or an organized extended residential program since you were 12 years old, you are not eligible."
While those who have taken educational trips to Israel after turning 18 are still not eligible for Birthright, youths who took such trips before 18 can now go on Birthright from ages 18-26, Bauer told JNS.org.
“I think everybody thought about [the change in the eligibility guidelines] for many years, and everybody wanted to have it,” Bauer said. “It was a matter of funding, and I think today you see more anti-Israel things on campus, and we realized over the years that people that have been to Israel again have more confidence for talking about Israel, and geopolitics, and anything pertaining to Israel after visiting with Birthright Israel. I think we’re one of the best platforms to do that for college students.”
In the 13-plus years since philanthropists Charles Bronfman and Michael Steinhardt joined forces with the Israeli government, the Jewish Agency for Israel, global Jewish communities, and other philanthropists to fund Birthright, the program has taken about 350,000 young Jews to Israel.