Experiencing Israel in Year 10 has become an important right of passage for students, regardless of which school they attend. While in the past it was the domain of a small group, who could afford such a trip, the majority now elect to participate in a program, with the momentum building year on year. We are even seeing an exponential growth in student participation from schools where there may only be one Jewish student in the year.
When Youth 2 Israel (Y2i) began offering $5,000 vouchers to students, it had an immediate impact, particularly in the Jewish day schools. Participation levels have flipped, and we now see over 80% involved. Y2i Board Chair Jeremy Dunkel says, “It was an important turning point. Engaging so many students from the likes of Moriah and Masada was a big step in changing the broader Jewish community’s attitudes. The vouchers had a significant impact on Emanuel with almost all their students now attending the school’s six-week Israel program, which did not exist prior to the Y2i vouchers. We not only want this momentum in the Jewish day schools to continue, but we know this momentum is spilling over into other schools.”
BJE have been running a program for nine years, and this year, the positive swing in participation will reach new heights. The numbers have steadily risen for the past couple of years, but for 2017 there is expected to be at least a 50% increase in participants.
Jeremy adds, “It started off with only a few schools represented, now we see kids from places where you would not expect to find Jewish families. St Spyridon. St George, Newtown, St Catherine’s are all joining the growing list. In some cases, there is only one student in the year who is Jewish, but they see the program as a way to connect with their Jewish heritage.”