2017-12-06 / Local News

Enrollment open for Gift of Israel teen trip program

For over 20 years, our community has participated in a special kind of gift, The Gift of Israel. At its core, it is a cooperative savings plan to send post-confirmation age children to Israel. Think matching 401k designed by the community with the sole purpose of making Israel trips affordable.

As explained by Ed Rivkin, former Gift of Israel (GOI) chair, “Confirmation trips started as an incentive for students to stay in Hebrew High programs, and GOI came shortly thereafter. Numerous Jewish continuity studies have listed an Israel trip in one’s late teens as a major influencer to helping ensure that our descendants continue their Judaism. We have had great success in our community with over 500 students using this money to experience Israel.”

Families are given an opportunity to open an account with the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey in third grade. Contributions are then made yearly, with a match from both the Jewish Federation and the synagogue. As long as families remain members and the student remains in religious school, the money can then be used for any organized Israel experience, including post-conformation trips.

Most use the funds to participate in the synagogue trip, but that is not required. Through this program, families can save over $2,000 towards a trip. Matthew Podolnick, former chair and a parent of two participants of the program said, “This is a no-brainer. Our community is giving you money for a trip. Over 70 percent of our religious school students participate, but there is always room to grow. We would love to see 100 percent participation in the program.”

Podolnick added, “Every penny is appreciated, but we hope to find ways that the program can cover more costs of the trip. But like the lottery, you need to be in it. I encourage all eligible families to participate.”

To start an account, or make a payment, please visit the Jewish Federation website at jewishsouthjersey.org/goi. If you have any questions, please email goi@jfedsnj.org or call (856) 673- 2588. 

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