Birthright Israel, an organization that has brought over 800,000 young Jewish adults to Israel since 1999, is set to undertake a major initiative to become more environmentally conscious. The project will be funded for five years, thanks to a “transformational gift” from Stephen and Claudine Bronfman, Ellen Bronfman Hauptman, and Andrew Hauptman, to honor Birthright co-founder Charles Bronfman. Final-stage interviews are underway to appoint an environmental project manager who will steer the plan forward alongside Gia Arnstein, VP of Education at Birthright Israel.

Integrating Environmental Content into Programs

The initiative aims to integrate environmental content and activities into all Birthright programs, including the classic, free, 10-day Birthright trips, which will bring some 25,000 young Jews to Israel this year. The organization also plans to create a small number of tailor-made, environmentally-oriented programs in Israel for those who want to dig deeper. These might take the form of Birthright tour buses focusing on visits to places with environmental importance or internships with Israeli companies in the climate tech or ag-tech fields. Birthright also plans to examine how best to make the organization itself more sustainable, for example, by using electric buses or serving vegan food.

Addressing Vital Environmental Challenges

Stephen Bronfman, who has been environmentally active for years, said that helping Birthright Israel address vital environmental challenges is a natural path for the Bronfman family to honor their father’s legacy and to commit to the next generation of Jewish life. Nigel Savage, founder and former director of the US Jewish environmental organization Hazon, has been advising Stephen Bronfman and Ellen Bronfman Hauptman on the project since January 2022 and will continue as the senior lead consultant.

A Change of Mindset

Arnstein emphasized that this initiative is not a project that will end in five years but rather a “change of mindset.” She added that Birthright Israel wishes to uphold and leverage deep-seated Jewish values in the contemporary context of climate change, carbon footprints, and green initiatives.