— by Jason Edelstein
To help Birthright Israel alumni and their friends connect to communities and create their own meaningful experiences during the High Holidays, NEXT: A Division of Birthright Israel Foundation today launched its 2013 High Holidays Initiative. With an interactive online map of High Holiday services and events around the country, along with the first-time offering of resources and small subsidies to host Rosh Hashanah meals and Yom Kippur break-the-fasts, the initiative empowers young Jewish adults to form communities of meaning with one another, and to celebrate the High Holidays in ways that are accessible and authentic.
More after the jump.
According to NEXT’s CEO Morlie Levin:
Taglit-Birthright participants have returned from their summer trips – joining the hundreds of thousands of alumni from past years – with a personal connection to Judaism, Israel, and the Jewish people. Now is the time to build on that connection and help make Jewish opportunities and communities more accessible. We’ve found that Birthright Israel alumni are particularly interested in celebrating holidays with their friends, and the High Holidays Initiative offers them the opportunity to both create these experiences themselves and connect to community events they find meaningful.
More than 250 services and events in 145 U.S. cities were represented on the interactive map when it launched on August 5, with an increase expected in the coming weeks. Users can easily find events in their city and browse event details, including whether discounted or free tickets are offered. A new feature this year will enable users to filter events based on their preferences for things like egalitarian services, LGBT-friendly events, and more. This is the third year NEXT is offering this online tool.
The resources and subsidies for Birthright Israel alumni to create their own High Holiday experiences are being offered for the first time after the success of NEXT’s Passover Seder initiative. On NEXT’s website, alumni will be able to access traditional and modern insights on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Tools that will help them host High Holiday meals-including Pinterest boards featuring recipes, table setting ideas, and fun High Holiday themes-will also be available. NEXT will additionally offer small subsidies to cover the cost of food for these meals.
The High Holidays Initiative is part of NEXT’s year-round efforts to create opportunities for Birthright Israel alumni and their peers to engage in experiences that deepen their connection to Judaism, Jewish communities, the Jewish people, and Israel. NEXT also consults with local communities and individuals on the most effective strategies for young Jewish adult engagement.
We have an incredible opportunity to help young Jewish adults turn a ten day trip into a lifelong Jewish journey. Whether by empowering Birthright Israel alumni to find or create meaningful Jewish experiences, or collaborating with local communities and engagement professionals on best strategies to engage this demographic, NEXT is intent on helping young Jewish adults explore deeper Jewish living and learning, as well as their connection to the Jewish people.
NEXT’s other “do-it-yourself” offerings similarly aim to make Jewish experiences more accessible to Birthright Israel alumni. NEXT’s flagship initiative, NEXT Shabbat, has helped more than 7,000 Birthright Israel alumni host more than 16,800 Shabbat experiences for their friends, creating Jewish opportunities that have drawn a total attendance of over 235,000 young adults.