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November 6, 2009     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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November 6, 2009

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, NOVEMBER 06, 2009 PAGE 17A By Hillary Larson New York Jewish Week As hurricane season winds down and the air turns crisp, thoughts turn to sultry is- land breezes and fluffy white beaches. Far out in the Atlantic Ocean, yet easily accessible by plane from New York City, lies an ideal winter destination: Barbados. Barbados looks windswept and wild, yet easily dwarfs its island neighbors in terms of sophistication and variety. The soul of Barbados is a genteel fusion of West Indies and Great Britain. It's a place where bright green jungles give way to manicured plantation lawns, where young boys live for roadside games of cricket and where afternoon tea is a serious business. All of this gives Barbados a delight- fully foreign feeling, but one without the language barrier that can frustrate efforts to connect with local culture elsewhere in the Caribbean. Barbados is one of the re- gion's largest, most developed and least crime-ridden nations. with excel lent infrastructure to suit the tourism industry. By Jacob Berkman NEWYORK(JTA) Birth- right Israel is hinging a ma- jor fund-raising push on a new study that says the pro- gram, which sends young Jews on free 10-day trips to Israel, has a major impact on Jewish continuity. The study, released Oct. 26 by Brandeis University's Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies. found that those who participated on Birthright trips are more likely to have stronger con- nections to Israel, raise their children as Jews and belong to a synagogue than their peers who have not made a Birthright trip. Titled "Generation Birth- right Israeh The Impact of an Israel Experience on Jew- ish Identity and Choices." the study is based on in- terviews with some 1,200 young people who applied for Birthright trips between 2001 and 2004--two=thirds of whom went on the trips, the rest whose applications were denied. The survey compared the answers of the two groups. Of the 500 or so inter- viewed who are now mar- ried. 72 percent who made the trip married Jews. while 46 percent of those who did not .married Jews. This means that Birthright participants were 57 percent more likely to marry within the faith, according to Len Saxe, the head of the Cohen Center and the researcher who oversaw the survey. When the study's results were presented publicly on Oct. 26 at a Brandeis-owned building on Manhattan's Upper East Side, the head of the Boston federation hailed Birthright as the only successful recent big And once you get to Barba- dos, you have literally dozens of beaches to choose from. Those on the ocean side have rocky promontories, dramatic cliffs and crashing waves, attracting surfers of all stripes. The Carib- bean side boasts tranquil bays of shimmering pale-green water and powdery pink sand. Swim- ming, snorkeling, scuba-diving and hiking are all popular. City slickers will enjoy the laid-back yet cosmopolitan rhythm of multicultural Bridgetown, the Barbados capital, with its galleries, shops and cricket matches. The north and south Coasts of the island abound in luxury resorts and posh beach towns, while the eastern region offers spectacular wildlife and raw. unspoiled beauty. Only a handful of Jewsi lives in Barbados today, but a Sephardic Jewish presence dates to early Colonial times. Its heyday was in the 17th and 18th centuries, when Jewish merchants prospered in the island's thriving sugar indus- try. In 1654. a community of Jews from Brazil. many of whom were descended from Iberian Inquisition refugees, built a synagogue in bustling Bridgetown. Laura Mozes Leonard Saxe, lead author of "Generation Birthright Israel," attending a research briefing in New York City on Oct. 26 in conjunction with the report's release. idea in the Jewish com- munity. "People are looking for the next big thing; we ain't finding no other big thing at this level." said Barry Shrage, the CEO of the Com- bined Jewish Philanthropies of Boston. North American Jewish federations are partners in Birthright with the Israeli government and the private philanthropists who fund the majority of the project. One requisite for launch- ing the program in 1999 was that it incorporate rigorous controls to gauge if it was working; the study is part of that effort. Although Birthright paid for the study, Saxe said that as a tenured professor at Brandeis, he felt no pres- sure to find certain results to placate his funders. The Cohen Center that Saxe heads also houses the Steinhardt Social Research Institute. funded by Michael Amazingly, that original synagogue still exists today; it has one of the oldest active congregations in the Ameri- cas. The first building was destroyed by a .hurricane in the 1800s, rebuilt and then later restored by the Jewish Israel will likely be the only museum on your Barbados to-do list. Mbre popular are natural attractions like the Flower Forest. Located in the lovely hamlet of St. Joseph. the Forest is an Eden-like natural wonderland, a lush landscape or anywhere in Barbados, try the coconut cream pie, a local specialty.) Adventurous travelers or nature-lovers will want to rent a car or, better yet, hire a car and driver to explore the wilder, less touristy parts of the island. birds you have never seen before. There are expanses of deep blue ocean that suddenly reveal themselves from behind a thicket of mountaintop palmetto. And there is the warmth and cu- riosity of rural Barbadians, Taxisarerelativelyinexpensive, whose lilting local music andtheirdriversarelikelytobe wafts through the flower- friendly and honest. Amid the scented air, and who seem junglyforestsofthemountain- genuinely delighted to chat ouseastarepocketsofgrinding_ with American visitors. poverty, replete with pastel Hillary Larson is a travel lean-toshantytownsanddodgy writer for the New York Jew- rural roads, ish Week from which this But there are also aston- article was reprinted with ishingly colorful and exotic permission. u lty m the 1980s Now of fuchsia blossoms and palm protected by the Barbados fronds. There are trails for Historic Trust, the synagogue is open to visitors during the week and hosts services as well. Last year, the Jews of Bar- bados opened the Nidhe Israel Museurh on the grounds of the synagogue, overlooking the historic Jewish cemetery. Visitors will find an attractive. well-organized collection of Jewish cultural and religious artifacts that document the 350 years of Jewish history in Barbados. It's safe to say that Nidhe Steinhardt. one of the phi- lanthropists who gives to Birthright. Saxe and Birthright of- ficials acknowledge that there is a great deal of fund raising that hinges on his study's findings. A number of Birthright's private benefactors were in attendance, among them Steinhardt and Charles Bronfman, who are credited with founding the program, as well as Lynn Schuster- man and Michael B0hnen. who runs the foundation of Birthright's largest funder, casino mogul Sheldon Adel- son. Immediately after Saxe had presented his findings, Steinhardt. Bronfman and Schusterman stood in a Q&A session and made a pitch for more money from more people based on Saxe's results. "I think this is a great report," Bronfman said. "Thirty years ago we started hearing about the impor- tance of informal Jewish education, and nothing happened. Then about con- tinuity, and nothing hap- pened. Then Birthright comes along and change happened." Steinhardt took a dig at the Jewish organizational establishment as he pointed to the report as evidence of Birthright's success. Birthright "was over- whelmingly disliked by the midstream and by the in- stitutional Jewish world." Steinhardt said. "Jews around the world should be appalled by the level of edu- cation in the non-Orthodox Jewish world. It has to be very different, and I don't hear anything different today. You ask about the impact of Jew- ish philanthropy--well, the strolling, botanical specimens to gape at, and stunningviews of the rugged East Coast. In the nearby hamlet of St. Philip is a quintessentially Bar- badian attraction: the Sunbury Plantation House. Get a feel for the gracious Colonial lifestyle by taking a guided tour of this restored 17th-century man- sion and its elegant gardens. The romantic Courtyard Res- taurant offers buffet brunches and very fancy candlelit din- ners in avintage setting. (Here impact has been 'gornisht (nothing).' "This study is important because we have changed the Jewish world. Birthright and what we did--it created change.'" The Birthright Israel Foundation, which oversees the approximately $80 mil- lion in private money that will flow into the project this year. is now seeking more money from smaller donors, and specifically from the federation system. Birthright is still one of the best-funded Jewish philanthropic endeavors. but its budget has fallen in the past year. Birthright received a huge boost with $70 million in gifts from Adelson in 2007 and 2008, giving it a budget of $80 million in 2007 and $100 million in 2008. In 2009, the budget fell back to $80 million. The group expects a similar budget for 2010. Birthright is attempting to make up for the drop in funding from Adelson and to bring enough new money to grow the program so that by 2016, Birthright can offer 51 percent of all Jews aged 18 to 26 a free trip to Israel at some point. Birthright says it is now reaching about 25 percent of that age cohort. "Our job No.1 is don't leave 20.000 kids on the ground each year." Shrage said of those who cannot go because spots on Birthright trips are limited. "How can federations look themselves in the eye? These kids aren't coming back. This is our shot. This study gives us the tool to do that. "If we act now, we are blessed. If not, it is another example of our failing." Volosin, Inc. Int.erior/Exterior Painting . I Pressure Washing Excellent References I " Licensed.& Insured . 07 5 David and Shelly Sokol - Owners Join your Florida friends at... OF CENTRAL FLORIDA Register Now For Our 40th Summer For Boys & Girls 6-15 A magnificent 100 acre Air Conditioned camp in the hills near Ocala National Forest. Beautiful, Sandy Beach with Spring Lake, swimming pool, boating, fishing, canoeing, Wave Runner, and water skiing. On land, confidence ropes course/zipline, all sports, tennis, archery, riflery, crafts, and drama. 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