This opinion piece in the JPost is troubling. First, the writing is sloppy and not particularly thoughtful - it is rampant with large generalized statements that are rarely backed up by authoritative tools (like quotes from professors, rabbis, Jewish professionals, you know, the people who WORK with young Jews). Secondly, it appears the author has never spoken to a birthright israel participant, otherwise he would know how meaningful the trip is to every participant, irrespective of Jewish background. For example, the author immediately assumes birthright israel is for "apathetic" young Jews.
Nothing comes easy like water from a faucet. One has to work hard to achieve something of value. When something is given away for free, you can deduce it is not worth much. To crown someone with the grand Jewish prize of coming to Israel - for being Jewishly apathetic is to tell that person: Judaism is cheap.Actually, no the program does not cheapen the meaning of Judaism or the experience of visiting Israel with a peer group. And the trip benefits EVERYONE, not only unaffiliated Jews, but observant Jews who could otherwise not afford a trip to Israel.
His central question, "Would it not have been wiser for wealthy Jews to have invested the approximately $250 million spent on birthright thus far on building academically prestigious Jewish day-schools that go through high school?" implies that the impact of Jewish day schools is felt by all varieties of Jews within the community, but that's far from reality. In fact, Jewish day schools appeal to those already within the fold, those who have bought into Jewish education and are connected to the community. Even if Jewish schools were as competitive and academically rigorous as elite private schools, (some already are) the segment of Jews who are dissociated from the mainstream Jewish community would never send their kids to a full-time Jewish educational institution. The genius of birthright israel is that it is a short-term, no strings attached, completely free gift.....with no explicitly stated agenda.
Try getting 100,000 young adults to agree to 4 + years of a dual curriculum educational experience, and then calculate that success rate.