Why Birthright’s Funding Problems Should Worry American Jews

Due to rising costs and a reported decrease in donations, Birthright Israel—a program that gives young American Jews free trips to the Jewish state—declared that it will only be sponsoring 23,500 participants in 2023, as opposed to 35,000 this year. Jonathan Tobin comments on the program’s successes, and what might be lost by its decline:

In an era when assimilation and intermarriage have taken a huge toll on the Jewish community, the ten-day Birthright visit has proven to be a life-changing event for many participants. [A study conducted by Brandeis University] showed that nearly half of those eligible took advantage of Birthright. Even more important, those who did so were far more likely to be somewhat, or very, attached to Israel; feel a sense of belonging to the Jewish people; and feel they had a lot in common with Israeli Jews. The most startling statistic was that participants were 160-percent more likely to end up with a Jewish partner or spouse.

[T]he strong connection to the Jewish state and the Jewish people that is engendered by these trips is needed more than ever. While schools and camps are still vital, there is simply no substitute for what Birthright has accomplished.

While interfaith outreach groups and anti-Zionists may not be upset about a decline in the number of Birthright participants, no one who cares about perpetuating Jewish life in North America should be under illusions that their community doesn’t need to look to Israel as a spiritual center and a source of inspiration. Birthright is too important to be allowed to be just one more victim of a bad economy or the decisions of individual foundations to shift their priorities.

Read more at JNS

More about: American Jewry, Birthright Israel, Israel and the Diaspora

While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy