By Michael Wegier, UJIA Chief Executive

UJA chief executive Michael Wegier

UJA chief executive Michael Wegier

My generation grew up in the shadow of the 1967 and 1973 wars, when Israel’s existence was under immediate threat and our attachment to Israel was deep-rooted. Sure, we argued about politics, but the existential threats that Israel faced meant that the wider context was understood at a very deep level. Supporting aliyah and Israel’s socio-economic development was as important to our identity as Pesach and Yom Kippur.

As Israel has become wealthier and as our own community has become increasingly comfortable, young Jews look at Israel very differently.

Some see a rich country (at least in metropolitan Tel Aviv) that no longer needs diaspora support in the same way.

Others see lack of progress in peace and prefer to invest their time and money elsewhere. Differences in politics within the community let alone with the non-Jewish public have become shrill, uncompromising and sometimes vicious.

UJIA engages with those in the community who love Israel and want to engage with the country in an intellectually honest and emotionally compelling way. We understand that many people have not been touched by Israel’s economic growth and we fundraise to help give the disadvantaged a boost in their education.

In our community, we enable 1,200 16-year-olds to go on Israel Tour, and another 280 young adults go on UJIA Birthright each year for their first educational trip. We are now going to go even further.

UJIA Birthright will now be open to 19-to-26-year-olds whether or not they have been on tour. This programme is funded by UJIA together with the Israeli Government and Taglit-Birthright Israel.

Of course, we will continue to give priority to those who have never been on an educational trip to Israel.

But by revising the eligibility criteria to be more inclusive and reach young people for a second time further along in their Jewish journey, we are supporting those who we need to be committed to Jewish life and Israel and helping secure our community’s future.

  • Read more about UJIA Birthright here.