The Jewish Federation of Monmouth County is offering free first-time trips to Israel for young adults.
The federation is sponsoring a busload — 40 participants — on a 10-day Taglit-Birthright trip scheduled to take place between Dec. 15 and Jan. 15.
Applicants must be Jewish Monmouth residents between the ages of 22 and 26 who have never been to Israel on an educational peer-group trip.
Organizers expect to be able to accept about a quarter of those who apply. The committee aims to raise $60,000, which will be matched by the Taglit-Birthright Israel Foundation — enough to cover 40 participants at $3,000 per person.
Alan Winters of Elberon is heading up the organizing committee together with Lauren Reich of Manalapan.
“I believe in Jewish continuity, and in Jews marrying Jews and raising Jewish children,” said Winters, who recently ended a six-year run as federation treasurer, “and I think this is one of the best ways we can support that.”
He and Reich have sent out an appeal for donations — for a full $3,000 sponsorship, a $300 day sponsorship, or — as Winters said — “whatever people choose to give.”
About $11,000 in donations have come in so far, and organizers are confident that the rest will come. “It’s a done deal,” Winters said.
Two of Winters’ step-grandchildren have been on the Birthright trips — Devin Dam, 24, of Little Silver, in March, and Rebecca Weiner, 22, of Middletown, in May.
“When Devin came back, he was so impressed; I thought this has to be one of the most important things that our Jewish federation can do — to give our young people a sense of alliance with Israel, and to help them learn who they are,” Winters said.
Reich said, “I hope people get as excited about this opportunity as I am. It’s the first time we’ve done this in Monmouth County, and it’s a chance to show what federation does in a really tangible way.” She pointed out that young Jews are being offered an opening that 23,000 others around the country were unable to get this year.
And she knows just how much participants enjoy Birthright trips. Her middle son, Jeremy, 22, went on one two years ago. He came back so excited about the experience, his sister, Nicole, 19, decided to go this month, and their brother, Daniel, 24, is going at the end of June.
Reich was also instrumental in helping a friend’s daughter, Carly Rosenberg, go this past winter. Carly described herself as pretty uninformed about Israel before that trip; she came back so passionate about the country, she has been seeking sponsorship so she can go back this summer as a volunteer. Reich said, “For me, that sums up what Birthright is all about.”
Evan Levitt, the federation’s director of financial resource development, led a Birthright trip from Penn State University in January and saw for himself the impact the trip had on participants.
“Taglit-Birthright is like a modern Judah Maccabee,” he said, “saving the Jewish people one Jew at a time. Without Birthright, thousands of young Jews wouldn’t have the connection to the Jewish community and Israel that they do.”
Part of the proceeds of one of the federation’s major fund-raisers — its annual Hollywood Golf Club event (on Thursday, July 22, 3-9 p.m. at the club in Deal) — will benefit its Birthright program.