Tuesday, October 20, 2020

“RootOne” will lower the cost of trips and aims for tens of thousands of participants each summer in order to enable more teens to strengthen Jewish identity and connection to Israel.

(Courtesy of RootOne) An ambitious new initiative will lower the cost of teen travel to Israel, aiming to help tens of thousands travel there each summer with expertly trained trip leaders, educators and Israeli teens, creating a transformational and meaningful experience. Led by the Jewish Education Project, the initiative, known as RootOne (RootOne.org) received a $20 million seed gift from the Marcus Foundation to provide major subsidies for trip participants while also investing in trip curricula and experiences, and providing deeper pre and post-trip engagement to strengthen participants’ Jewish identities and connections to Israel before they begin college. Five youth-serving organizations (YSOs)—NCSY, BBYO, USY, Ramah and Union for Reform Judaism (URJ)—are working with RootOne to elevate and increase participation in their Israel travel programs.


“Teen travel to Israel is a deeply impactful experience that can set a teen on a path for ongoing, meaningful Jewish engagement filled with lifelong friendships,” said David Bryfman, CEO of The Jewish Education Project. “We are thrilled to partner with these youth-serving organizations that have the track record and experience of running great Israel travel programs. Now, together, we can transform the field and elevate the experience to make it more accessible for more teens.”

Through RootOne, the YSOs will receive subsidies, “RootOne vouchers,” to lower their price point by $3,000 per participant on their trips. RootOne aims to increase teens traveling to Israel on these trips by nearly 40% year over year. By 2025, more than 10,000 Jewish teens are expected to travel to Israel on RootOne peer programs every summer. And by 2030, that becomes 20,000 teens.

“We want young people stepping onto their college campuses with deep connections to Israel and strong Jewish identities,” said Bernie Marcus, chairman of the Marcus Foundation. “These types of trips are proven to greatly impact participants in these ways. Over the next decade, the Jewish Education Project and its partners can inspire tens of thousands of teens, helping prepare them to be Jewish leaders in college and proud supporters of Israel and in turn changing the trajectory of American Jewish life.”

Previously a normative part of many Jewish teens’ lives, teen Israel travel has declined over the last 20 years for a variety of reasons. RootOne aims to reverse that trend with a new level of focus and intentionality built into all aspects of the trip and pre- and post-trip engagement.

“We’re excited to offer immersive Israel experiences in coordination with other learning opportunities designed for today’s teens and the world in which they live,” says Rabbi Micah Greenland, international director of NCSY.

“Teens are eager to engage in challenging conversations, to learn about all aspects of Israel, and to understand how Israel is or can be a part of their lives,” added Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism.

The iCenter for Israel Education, the primary educational advisor for RootOne, will train all American staff who will lead trips, using a similar model to what The iCenter currently uses to train Birthright Israel staff. The iCenter also will develop trip curricula as well as pre- and post-program engagement, help prepare Israeli teens who will join the trips, and ensure that any existing training programs use best-in-class newly-created resources.

The first RootOne trips are expected to leave in the summer 2021.