Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Mayanot Birthright does not end when your trip ends – an exciting new chapter begins

Mayanot is beginning an exciting new venture, spearheaded by Mayanot Alumni Adam Weinstein, the chairman of the post-Birthright volunteer board, and Rachel Fertel.

The 10 day trip to Israel with Mayanot Birthright is an exhilarating experience, connections and friendships are made. For many, the Birthright trip was their first chance to form relationships with other young Jewish adults. However, after the plane touches down on US soil, and the participants go their separate ways, it is often difficult to maintain that sense of togetherness and connection across the distances and the pull of everyday life. Mayanot Birthright is hoping to rectify this.

Although Birthright does cater to the larger Birthright community through initiatives such as the “Jewish Enrichment Centre” and “Next”, Mayanot is offering, through this new program, a service which is smaller and which is tailored to foster connections within the Mayanot family, which will work in conjunction and affiliation with these already established programs.

In order to help participants maintain and sustain the connections made on the trip not only to other young Jewish adults but to Jewish life and community, Mayanot has added a new member to our team, Sara Prinsky. Sara is our post-Birthright Program Coordinator; her time will be dedicated to organizing and publicizing events for Mayanot alumni and for Mayanot alumni together with the local Jewish community in the New York-Metro area, as well as coordinating events in other cities throughout the United States, and liaising with the other Birthright alumni organizations.

In this way, Mayanot alumni will be able to maintain the connection they established to their Jewish community, while also continuing the relationships with each other that they formed on their Birthright trip, and meeting other young Jewish adults who had the same Mayanot Birthright experience.  Mayanot ensures that we keep you connected.

Adam Weinstein explains that ‘Birthright has been tremendously successful and there are already some organizations focused on capturing that experience by offering post-Birthright programming. What we’re trying to do is make sure that we’re engaging the overwhelming majority of Birthright participants who had a positive experience, and taking that popularity and following through with programming in the New York area, which will hopefully grow elsewhere by offering unique content.’ Mr. Weinstein reiterated that he wants the program to recreate what people felt while on their Birthright trip as they reconnect with fellow participants and group leaders. Hopefully, with the rekindling of that feeling, they will ‘take it to next stage - whatever that means for them’ in terms of their Jewish association. Rachel Fertel adds, ‘Mayanot does so much for the Jewish community at large, that this seemed like a natural and crucial next step for them to take. Follow-up for a program like Birthright is so important, especially when helping young Jewish professionals and college students who are returning from such a meaningful and inspirational trip. It’s a great opportunity to have this forum and support system.’

Rabbi Kasriel Shemtov, the Executive Director of the Mayanot Institute of Jewish Studies, reiterated their sentiments, ‘everyone agrees that Mayanot and Birthright is one of the most powerful means of getting a student in touch with his or her own Judaism. We want them to keep the powerful inspiration Mayanot Birthright gave them and to nurture it so that they can inspire others around them.’

Initial funding for the program has been provided by the Kurt and Helen Feuerman Foundation and the Adam B. Weinstein Foundation. The program will kickstart after Pesach, Rabbi Shlomo Gestetner, Dean of the Mayanot Institute of Jewish Studies, calls it ‘exciting’ and is looking forward to the results that it will yield: this program reiterates that Mayanot Birthright is more than just a 10 day trip to Israel – it is a community in and of itself.