Saturday, June 03, 2006

A company named Rabinowitz/Dorf Communications sent me an e-mail proudly announcing "that Stephanie Lowenthal, 26-year-old New Yorker who works for the communications department of The NASDAQ Stock Market, will be the 100,000th participant to partake in a Taglit-Birthright Israel trip". I have never been a great fan of the Birthright program. My feelings regarding the program I expressed in two postings: click here and here. That at least two young Jews used the program to get here and to work for the International Solidarity Movement is probably not Birthright's organizers' fault, but it certainly does not count in the organization's favor either. According to the Taglit website Birthright is financed by leading Jewish philanthropists, local Jewish communities and federations ( through the United Jewish Communities, Keren Hayesod and The Jewish Agency for Israel) and the Israeli government. As long as there are people in Israel who depend on charity handouts for a proper holiday meal, and as long as cancer patients in Israel have to go on a hunger strike in order to receive money for the medicines they need, I believe that sending a 26-year-old NASDAQ worker on a free trip to Israel should not be a priority, not for leading Jewish philanthropists but certainly not for the Jewish Agency and the Israeli government. I welcome with open arms every young Jew ( and non-Jew, obviously ) who wants to experience Israel by him/herself, and if someone shows a certain commitment and enthusiasm but never came here for financial reasons he/she could and should be encouraged and helped, for instance through student exchange programs. But there is no reason to give short, free, noncommittal trips to people who can clearly afford to come here on their own.

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