Hillel International and Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP), Boston’s Jewish Federation, have announced a first-of-its-kind national partnership. CJP and Hillel International will work together to expand CJP’s Israel Campus Initiative (IACT – Inspired, Active, Committed and Transformed), which builds on the success of Birthright by providing support and inspiration to students before and after their trip. The newly expanded program will recruit more college-age Jewish students to participate in the Taglit-Birthright Israel Program and better engage these young adults in Jewish life upon their return from Israel.
This fall, Hillel and CJP will bring the success of IACT to Hillels at five major universities as part of a two-year pilot program. CJP, in consultation with Hillel International, selected the universities for participation out of more than a dozen candidates. Those selected are: University of Florida, University of Texas-Austin, The Ohio State University, University of Maryland, and University of California-Santa Barbara.
The national expansion is being fully funded for the next two years through a generous gift of more than $3.1 million from Edward Fein, a New York native who now lives in Nevada. A long-standing supporter of innovative educational programs and Jewish continuity and engagement, Fein is dedicated to enhancing and improving the experience of Jewish students nationwide. Fein was inspired to increase his support of IACT beyond New England by the program’s success to date in transforming Jewish life on college campuses and CJP’s vision for the future. “IACT has been instrumental in leveraging the Birthright opportunity and ensuring that students are able to continue their Jewish journey well after they get back to campus. It’s a program that really connects the next generation to their Jewish heritage, and they are the future of the Jewish community. It’s time to take the program to the next level,” said Ed Fein.
“Hillel International is proud to partner with CJP in bringing the very successful IACT program to some of the largest Jewish campus communities in the world,” said Eric Fingerhut, President and CEO of Hillel International. “Working together we can expand IACT’s reach across the broader Hillel system. We will engage and take more students to Israel in fulfillment of our mission of connecting college-age Jewish students to their heritage and ancestral homeland.”
“Trips to Israel change Jewish lives. Every study of Jewish identity tells the same story but until now only the most committed young adults have participated. Birthright trips have opened the doorway to Jewish life for an entire generation. They are connecting the next generation through love of Israel and the Jewish people. But love alone won't persist. Birthright follow-up is critical. IACT enables these young adults to remain inspired and connected to lives of Jewish purpose and meaning, action and learning. This may well be the tipping point of a generation - a moment of transformational change in Jewish life. Our sincerest thanks to Hillel International for this partnership and to Edward Fein for his generous gift," said Barry Shrage, CJP President.
CJP’s distinguished IACT program, which funds Birthright coordinators who focus on recruitment and follow-up, currently serves 12 campuses in New England: Harvard, MIT, Brandeis, Tufts, Wellesley, Northeastern, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Williams, Amherst, Clark, Brown, and Boston University. The goal of the new national partnership is to expand to 50 campuses over the next five years.
CJP established IACT to foster engagement, community building and Israel advocacy on college campuses through the expansion of Birthright Israel and the active engagement of Birthright Israel participants in new programs. Since IACT began in 2007, 80 percent of IACT alumni are “sustainably engaged” in Jewish campus life. In 2013, more than 400 Boston-area Birthright alumni returned to Israel for short-term service trips and 200 core activists were trained. There are currently 1,000 IACT active alumni on New England campuses.