This week, I’d like to update you on the OU’s Israel Free Spirit (IFS) Birthright trips, which are poised for their biggest winter session ever. This year, they will be sending 24 buses (up from 17 last year) with participants from a pool of 1,858 applicants (up 17%).
As impressive as those numbers are, let’s place them in greater context: most Birthright providers are down as much as 40% while IFS has grown. IFS is the fourth largest of all Birthright trip organizers and the gap between IFS and the third-largest provider has been cut in half.
One of the things that makes IFS so successful is what they call their “niche trips,” appealing to specific interests. These specialty tours include “Arts and Entertainment,” “Israel Your Story” (media), “12 Steps” (designed for young people in recovery or impacted by an addiction), and Yachad/NJCD, among others. Two new niche trips are “Make a Difference,” designed for students and professionals involved in the social entrepreneurial field, and “Bizrael,” which takes top students and young professionals into Israel’s thriving high-tech and innovation scene.
Kudos to the entire Israel Free Spirit team: Director Rabbi David Felsenthal, Senior Executive Consultant Rabbi Menachem Persoff, Israel Director Yael Tamari, North American Associate Director Penny Pazornick, Program Director Scott Shulman, Registrar Bassy Altman, Program Associate Tatyana Plotkina, Registration Associate Lauren Hertan, Recruitment Associate Amanda Dwyer and Follow-Up Coordinator Netanel Gibson.