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Program bringing high schoolers to Israel blames demise on apathy, Birthright

Jul 12, 2018 by

Alexander Muss High School students shown in 2017. The school was one program under the Lapid Israel umbrella. (Alexander Muss High School in Israel/via JTA)

Alexander Muss High School students shown in 2017. The school was one program under the Lapid Israel umbrella. (Alexander Muss High School in Israel/via JTA

Umbrella group Lapid Israel, which failed to garner enough donations or support, says longer trips at younger ages are more effective at keeping kids Jewish

By Lev Gringauz –

JTA — Lapid Israel, a coalition of US-based high school programs in Israel, has shut down, citing Israel’s apathy in supporting long-term teen trips and philanthropists who preferred to support the free 10-day trips run by Birthright.

The programs in the umbrella group continue to operate, including Alexander Muss High School and programs run by Young Judaea, BBYO and Nativ, the Conservative movement’s gap-year program. The coalition’s shutdown was announced in January, although it was little noticed outside of philanthropy circles.

According to Gideon Shavit, the founder and one-time co-chairman of Lapid, partnerships with the coalition were rejected by numerous donors, the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Israeli Diaspora Affairs Ministry.

However, “the field of teen travel is not at all dead,” Sarah Vanunu, the former director of communications for Lapid, said in an email. “Trip providers are still in full operation and the programs are all running.”

Some 12,000 to 15,000 participants come every year on high school programs to Israel, according to Shavit and others involved in Lapid — down from over 20,000 participants in 2000. Vanunu insisted that Lapid’s closure had nothing to do with the decline in numbers.

“Lapid was forced to shut down purely as a result of the Jewish Agency and the [Israeli] government not putting serious enough attention into supporting and investing in the high school teen programs and reneging on previous commitments to support them,” she said.

In an email to JTA, Yigal Palmor, director of communications and public affairs at the Jewish Agency, defended the institution’s commitment to Lapid.

“The Jewish Agency has invested time, money and human resources in order to help Lapid develop programs that might draw eventual financial support from the Diaspora Ministry or from philanthropists,” Yigal said. “At no point did the Jewish Agency pledge funds to Lapid, and this vague accusation of reneging on alleged commitments is totally groundless.”

Shavit also blamed support for Birthright Israel, the free trips to Israel for older teens and young adults, saying the high prices for teen trips and long-term Israel experiences are prohibitive.

Everybody “focuses on Birthright,” Shavit said.

continue: Program bringing high schoolers to Israel blames demise on apathy, Birthright | The Times of Israel

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