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PAGE 14A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, SEPTEMBER 6, 2013 Birthright From page IA program marketingand social media at the Jewish Com- munity Center in Manhattan. Kaiserman, 28, belongs to a new generation--maybe even a new category--of young Jews who have come out of the Birthright program, which in January marked its ,'bar mitzvah" anniver- sary. Some members of this Birthright generation have gone on to make different, and meaningful, choices across different areas of life. Perhaps no one has seen the trip's impact more tangibly than Susannah Sagan, the as- sociate director of Ohio State University's (OSU) campus Hillel. At OSU, many Birth- right participants return to campus and begin tak- ing Jewish studies courses, getting involved with the university's pro-Israel group, Buckeyes for Israel, or with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Some of these students "come back and start living in the [Hillel] building," Sagan told JNS.org. In the 13 years since philan- thropists Charles Bronfman and Michael Steinhardtjoined forceswith the Israeli govern- ment, the Jewish Agency for Israel, global Jewish commu- nities, and other philanthro- pists to fund Taglit-Bir thright Israel, the pro gram has taken about 350,000 young Jews on free 10-day trips to Israel. A series of studies by Brandeis University's Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies has surveyed program alumni regarding the impact of Birthright on their lives and looked at those who applied to the program, but didn't participate, as acontrol group. Most recently updated in 2012, the studies show that Birthright often creates a new community for participants. "The evidence is clear that Taglit inspires a stronger sense of Jewish identity," said Brandeis University professor Leonard Saxe, a chief author of the research. While the surveys didn't ask directly about leadership, it's clear that Birthright "produces a desire to be part of the Jew- ish community," Saxe added. The research shows that for- mer Taglit participants are 42 percent more likely to feel "very much" connected to Israel compared to people who didn't go on the trip. More sur- vey respondents who partici- pated in the program are likely to belong to a religious con- gregation than those who did not. Birthright participants are also slightly more likely than nonparticipants to make charitable contributions to Jewish or Israeli causes. "My speculation is that in this era of electronically medi- ated social interaction, the need for actual connection is intensified," Saxe said. This holds true for the Man- hattan JCC's Kaiserman, who said that before going on Birthright she initially"didn't really do anything Jewish- related at all" after college, even though she had attended Jewish day school all her life. Matthew Putterman, a 24-year-old analyst for a real estate financial services firm in Houston, went on Birthright in 2010. He grew up in a neighborhood with- out a lot of Jewish families and joined a non-Jewish fraternity in college. This void "was quickly filled dur- ing and after Birthright." While on the trip, Putterman was introduced to the Gift of Life organ donor program. Spurred partly by his own sister's diagnosis of Hodgkin's Lymphoma, he eventually made his own bone marrow donation to a man suffering from blood cancer. "The sense of global Jew- ish community developed during Birthright definitely helped to substantiate my initial feelings of wanting to help if at all possible," Putterman told JNS.org. 814639572 36742591 8 925718463 286194735 143857296 759362184 678541329 5329768.4 1 491283657 HANDYMAN Handy man and General Maintenance Air Conditioning Electrical Plumbing Carpentry Formerly handled maintenance at JCC References available STEVE'S SERVICES Call Steve Doyle at (386) 668-8960 One of the seminal aspects of the Birthright experience continues to be the mifgash ("encounter" in Hebrew). "Each group is joined by eight Israelis, and.., usually seven out of eight are Israeli soldiers. They come dressed as soldiers only for the first two hours, but then they dress like civilians, and you cannot .distinguish who is the Ameri- can, who is the Israeli," Gidi Mark, CEO of Taglit-Birth- right Israel, told JNS.org. According to the Birthright website, more than 55,000 Israelis have participated in the program since its inception, 87 l ercent of them Israeli soldiers. One of the Israeli soldiers who accompanied his trip vis- ited Putterman in Houston. "Asaf and his friend (also Israeli, traveling with him) were a big hit at our family's Thanksgiving Dinner," Put- terman said. "Without Birth- right, Asaf might never have experienced a full American Thanksgiving, and I likely wouldn't have returned to Israel after graduating from college," he said. Kaiserman said she had her "aha moment" regarding her choice of career after she saw an Israeli soldier on her trip "dressed in uniform and making this daily sacrifice for Israel." The Brandeis study showed that former Birthright par- ticipants are 22 percent more likely to indicate that they are at least "somewhat confident" in discussing the current situ- ation in Israel in comparison to those who didn't go on the trip. After the experience, participants tell people, "You cannot say anything about the so-called bad Israeli soldiers, because we've been with many of them during our trip to Israel," Mark said. Program participants are also 45 percent more likely to marry someone Jewish than those who didn't go on the trip. "It's very important to me to marry a Jewish part- ner and to have Jewish life," Kaiserman said. Putterman is now dating a girl he met on his Birthright JNF From page 1h engineering company in the U.S. Sy is also dedicated to the community and has served on several boards including the Brevard County Library, Orange County Road Advi- sory Board, and as a national board member of the Center for Learning and Leadership. He also served as president of the JCC and Jewish Federation in Orlando. Debra Israel founded Rad- cliff Interior Services, Inc. in 1995, an interior design firm specializing in commercial and residential design. She has provided her services throughout the U.S. as well Yorish From page 5A volunteerism and shared com- mitment come together to make adifference in the world. Federation was established to improve the quality of Jewish life worldwide, nurture Jewish learnihg, care for those in need, rescue Jews in danger, and ensure the continuity and well-being of our people. We have been .doing all this for many decades and we must courtesy of Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life A Taglit-Birthright Israel trip through Hilleh The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life. trip. "It is definitely comforting to know that.., the tough deci- sion that inter-religious cou- ples have to make on which faith to raise their children is not something that I will need to worry about," he said. But not all participants fall in line with survey findings. Dan Eisenberg, an assistant professor in .anthropology at the University of Washing- ton who went on Birthright in 2004, fondly remembers "hiking through beautiful landscapes and nice times," and still remains friends with one of the Israeli soldiers on his trip. Eisenberg, however, still doesn't consider it very important to marry a Jewish partner. Eisenberg also said that despite the Birthright experi- ence, he doesn't buy the story some Israelis tell that they are "somehow more true Jews be- cause they are living in a land with some historical roots... and among a contemporary culture that is predominantly Jewish." Yet interest in Birthright continues to rise. According to Jeffrey Solomon, president of Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, one of the philanthropic organizations involved with Birthright since its founding, last year about 34,000 students went on the program and about42,000will go this year, an approximately 25-percent increase. "It is without question the best philanthropic in- vestment we ever made. It's been a success beyond our dreams," he told JNS.org. This May, philanthropists Sheldon and Miriam Adelson donated another $40 million to the Birthright Israel Foun- dation, bringing their total contribution to the program to $180 million. "Exposing young Jews to Israel helps broaden their awareness and deepen their cultural identity," Miriam Adelson said, according to Israel Hayom. Birthright is also expand- ing in a variety of interna- tional directions. According to Gail Hyman, Birthright's vice president of communications and marketing, last spring the program launched a new "Tour Educator Institute" so that tour educators "are better prepared" for "the cultural dif- ferences presented by a wide range of trip participants from now more than 60 countries., Additionally, dozens of coun- tries looking to connect Diasporas with their moth- erlands are taking notice of Birthright. 'Tvejust been to a conference in Dublin where everybody was talk- ing about Birthright-Israel as a pioneer in this. We were approached already by coun- tries like Bulgaria... and we are happy to help those who approach us," Mark said. The true impact'of Birthright on young Jews around the world, in terms of fostering leadership, may notbe obvious for years. "Although only a small percentage of Taglit alumni have already become Jewish leaders, among young adults taking leadership roles, those who have participated in Taglit are over-represented. Anec- dotally, among the next gener- ation of Jewish professionals, we're seeing many who come out of a Taglit experience and some who attribute their de- sire towork in the Jewish com- munity to Taglit," Saxe said. Susannah Sagan's son didn't really enjoy his own Birth- right experience, but when he returned to the U.S., he said, "I don't know what itis but I think about Jerusalem every day." Shortly after, he returned to Jerusalem for a 10-week career internship. "These are the people who are going to sit on federation boards.., on all the Jewish agency boards." Sagan said. Jacob Kamaras contributed to this article. as in the international market. One of her many residential design projects was featured in 2010 by Destination Aruba Magazine in a piece called "Desert Luxury." Mark Israel, son of Sy Israel, is the president of Universal Engineering Services. Work- ing side-by-side with his father has not only helped him learn the family business, but it has also guided him in the philanthropic path that Sy has created for his family through their love of Israel and JNF. Caryn and Mark Israel have been married for 15 years and have two children, Brandon, 14 and Lily, 13. They are ac- tive in several organizations and synagogues within the Jewish community, including JNF, Orlando JewishAcademy, Congregation Ohev Shalom, Holocaust Memorial Center, Jewish Community Center and the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. In addition to honoring the Israels, JNF will present the prestigious Tree of Life award to Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, and Orlando patrons Lois Tan- nenbaum, Dick and Louise Weiner, and Ben and Maura Weiner will also be honored at the dinner with the Guardian of Israel award. Stand-up comedian and writer Joel Chasnoff will entertain the crowd with his notorious comedy routines based on his own personal Jewish experiences. Chasnoff has performed at more than 1,000 colleges, clubs and Jew- ish organizations worldwide; including JNF's National Conference in Orlando last October, and has been seen on NBC and ABC TV. The dinner will take place on Nov. 6 at 6 pm at the Rosen Plaza Hotel, located at 9700 In- ternational Drive in Orlando. Sponsorship information and tickets are available online at jnf.org/orlandotol. For more information, please contact Laura Abramson at labramson@jnf.org or 800.211.1502. and will continue to do it. We are the one organization that can, should, and will build a community with a capital C. A Community where agencies and leaders are fully sup- portive of each other; where the interests of the Commu- nity come first and individual agency and personal agendas are secondary. I challenge our rabbinic leaders to join us in this work, to bring forth their talents and influence to achieve this goal. I challenge our agency lay and professional leadership to move beyond institutional interests and look at the big picture. Will it happen? It must. It has to, for the sake of the future of this Jewish community. AS we kick off the 2014 Shaping the Future Annual Campaign, we have established an ambitious goal to increase annual giving by 15 percent. I propose to use this increase to create a grants fund for collaborative and innovative community programs. It's time for the Federation to get back to its business. Every morning, as I arrive at work, I think of the privilege it is of being the executive direc- tor of the Jewish Federation. I think of how to use this day to make it stronger. I know how fortunate I am to do what I love and to love what I do.