My boy Andy Bachman did a number on the new Cohen Center Study of follow-up programming for the alumni of birthright israel (Full disclosure, I had a small role in the study, in which I conducted preliminary interviews with people who work with young Jews in the SF Bay Area).
Bachman noted that when he served as the Executive Director of the Bronfman Center at NYU, he asked on a number of occasions for the rosters of birthright participants so that he could reach out to them while at NYU. He was told “no.” In other words, Andy asked for the chance to reach out to the students of his university, and BRI said that it would not share that information with him.
This kind of attitude persists through the study, which suggests that the newly-branded “BirthrightNEXT” arm of the birthright juggernaut ought to be the primary provider of services and programs for birthright alums. Not synagogues or concerts. Not independent minyanim or libraries or book clubs or magazines: but birthright israel itself.
The idea being that only birthright, because it provided a “powerful Jewish experience,” could possibly sustain the allegiance and interest of its alums. Now…. imagine if NFTY or Young Judaea or the Solomon Schechter Schools approached their work with a similar attitude….
Maybe, in the spirit of the “economic contraction,” the idea isn’t an expansion of programs, but a contraction of them — or, has birthright israel become, to use a popular phrase that usually refers to unpopular corporations — too big to fail?