URJ’s Rabbi Rick Jacobs on Birthright Israel Halting Outreach to Arab Citizens of Israel

Inside Leadership

URJ’s Rabbi Rick Jacobs on Birthright Israel Halting Outreach to Arab Citizens of Israel

Press Release
Press Release

Contact: Lauren Theodore at 212-650-4154

New York, NY; November 1, 2017 - Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, issued the statement below in response to Birthright Israel's decision to halt their outreach to Arab citizens of Israel:

The fact that Birthright Israel has decided to halt their outreach to Arab citizens of Israel shows just how out of touch Birthright is becoming. Arabs make up 21% of the Israeli population, and tens of millions of dollars of Jewish philanthropy from North America, the UK, Israel, and elsewhere is being well spent by supporting and integrating Arab citizens of Israel into education, the workforce, and Israeli civil society. 

Birthright has been a transformative experience for over half a million young Jews, 40% who self-identify as Reform, but many are now questioning whether the ten day trips are exposing participants to a too-narrow slice of contemporary Israel.    

We believe that young people can fall in love with the real Israel that has so many inspiring aspects while also seeing up close the struggles for religious pluralism and for better ways for Jewish and the Arab citizens of Israel to live together. Young Jews, in particular, bring their Jewish values with them wherever they go, including on Birthright trips to Israel.  

This is a moment to attract more progressive participants to these unique trips. By cutting off encounters with Arab citizens of Israel, Birthright Israel will have the opposite effect; it will communicate loudly and clearly that these are trips with a narrow political agenda that is out of step with today’s young Jews and most of their parents as well. 



About the Union for Reform Judaism

The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) builds community at every level—from the way we collaborate with congregations, organizations, and individuals to how we make connections across North America to advance contemporary and inclusive Jewish life. Providing vision and voice to transform the way people connect to Judaism, we help congregations stay relevant and innovative, motivate more young Jews to embrace Jewish living, agitate for a more progressive society, and foster meaningful connections to Israel.

Founded in 1873, URJ has grown into the largest and most powerful force in North American Jewish life, with nearly 900 member congregations and work that inspires, connects, and educates millions of people. Our legacy, reach, leadership, and vision mean that we can unite thousands of years of tradition with a modern, evolving Judaism to strengthen Jewish communities today and for future generations.

Visit us at www.URJ.org to learn about our social justice initiatives, camps and programs for young Jews, services for congregations and communities, and how you can work with us to create a more just, whole, and compassionate world. Enjoy related content at ReformJudaism.org and connect with URJ on Twitter and Facebook.


Published: 11/01/2017

Categories: Press Releases

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