Regarding your story about the JACS group trip to Israel (“The sober side of Birthright,” January 4), Taglit-Birthright Israel would like to clarify a few points in this story.
Birthright is proud to be celebrating its bar mitzvah year in 2013. Approximately 400,000 Jewish young adults between the ages of 18 and 26 have participated in Birthright since its inception.
The focus of the Birthright program is to bring young Jewish adults, who have little to no connection to the Jewish community, to Israel, with the hope that they will discover and develop a personal connection to the land and people of Israel. Independent surveys have shown the positive effects of the Birthright program. Professor Len Saxe of Brandeis University found that more than 80 percent of participants said they felt connected to Israel, and nearly 75 percent called Birthright a “life changing experience.” Participants are also much more likely to marry a Jewish spouse and said that raising their children to be Jewish was “very important.”
The consumption of alcohol is not part of the Birthright itinerary, nor is it encouraged by trip leaders or organizers. That being said, the legal drinking age for adults in Israel is 18, and what participants may do after daily program activities is their own responsibility. In the rare case where a participant has consumed too much alcohol, he or she has been removed from the trip. However, of the 400,000 participants who have gone through the Birthright program, the number of times this measure has been enacted has been miniscule.