After a successful summer of more than 32 tours to Israel, Israel Free Spirit (IFS), the popular 10-day Orthodox Union free trip to Israel in conjunction with the Taglit-Birthright Israel program, has now opened registration for winter trips. Applications will be accepted from individuals between the ages of 18-26 from all Jewish affiliations. The trips will depart starting in mid-December through January, and will include two new “niche” programs in its roster: “Music on Tour” and “Yachad Inclusive.”
“We’re grateful for all the continued support provided by Taglit-Birthright Israel and we’re proud to offer their trips to thousands of participants each year,” said Rabbi Dave Felsenthal, Director of OU Next Gen which includes Israel Free Spirit.
“Music on Tour aims to attract musical performers and enthusiasts and engage them with the influences of Judaism on music,” explained Scott Shulman, Program Director for Israel Free Spirit. “The new trip will have meetings with Israeli musical performers, technicians, and scholars who have a wide variety of Israeli musical styles, such as Klezmer, Contemporary, Middle-Eastern, Rock and Roll, Jazz, and Afro-Caribbean.
“They will also learn the history of Jewish music in scripture and literature as well as in modern times,” he continued. “ They will visit the Shlomo Carlebach Heritage Center in Moshav Mevo Modi’in; participate in ‘jam sessions’ and music festivals; and will be accompanied by mifgashim (Israeli peers of similar age group) who are also musical performers themselves.”
The Yachad Inclusive trip will focus on volunteer work and create a social engagement platform between special needs and mainstream participants. It will also offer a spiritual Orthodox-style Shabbat with a service at the Kotel with an emphasis on traditional singing and dancing in addition to an explanatory prayer service. There will be nine staff members as well as 10-11 special-needs participants and 14-15 mainstream participants.
“After our success in hosting a Yachad trip exclusively for individuals with special needs over consecutive seasons, we agreed the next step was to create a tour for individuals of all abilities to promote an atmosphere of inclusion,” explained Scott Shulman.
Other IFS programs include trips for college campuses, young professionals, and niche trips like arts and entertainment professionals, business entrepreneurs, Jewish advocacy leaders, young adults recovering from alcoholism, Modern Orthodox youth, and separate trips for men and women.
Scott Shulman is confident that the trips will retain their unique flavor and personality even as they uphold the highest standards of safety for participants and staff.
“Our security policies this summer meant that participants on Birthright Israel groups had a great time and remained out of harm’s way. This summer, despite the changing security situation, we still operated the highest number of groups in our history.”