Hundreds more Jewish young people from Los Angeles will be able to take free educational trips to Israel because of a $700,000 donation from the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles to the Birthright Israel Foundation, the two organizations have announced.
The gift from the federation also leveraged a 2-to-1 match by the Adelson Family Foundation, making a total of $2.1 million available to help buy down the popular Birthright program's long wait list of Los Angeles applicants. Since the program began in 1999, about 220,000 young people from around the world have traveled to Israel under its auspices.
Jay Sanderson, who has just begun his stint as president of the local Jewish federation, said Los Angeles sends more students on the Birthright trips than other regions of the U.S. but also tends to have the longest waiting lists. After the donation, however, "the waiting list for 2010 is almost completely wiped out," he said.
Sanderson said studies show that Birthright's fully funded trips, which take 18- to 26-year-olds on a 10-day journey through Israel, significantly strengthen participants' feelings about their Jewish identity, which he says continues to be a challenge for younger generations.
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