Study finds Birthright alumni less likely to marry out

Interesting news from Ha'aretz:

A new study suggesting that Birthright alumni are nearly 60 percent more likely to marry Jewish partners made waves this week, as Jewish intellectuals and professionals discussed the study's merits and what lessons can be learned from it. One of the key questions was whether the figures - which are based on interviews with participants from 2001 to 2004, at the height of the intifada - would show a greater or lower Jewish commitment in more recent years.

The study documents participants' enhanced connectedness to Israel and increased interest in creating Jewish families. For example, participants were 23 percent likelier than non-participants to feel "very much" connected to Israel, and non-Orthodox Birthright alumni were 57 percent likelier to marry a Jew than their peers who applied but never participated.

Many commentators are hailing the study as a confirmation of what they always knew. Gidi Mark, the CEO of Birthright, told Haaretz he was aware of the trips' impact, but that he was "positively surprised" upon seeing the actual figures. "We anticipated the study's results with a lot of tension, because they could've also been negative," he said.

Since 1999, Birthright has sent some 220,000 young Diaspora Jews on free trips to Israel.

"I'm very proud to hear that Birthright finally says what I said all along, that intermarriage is the big issue," said Shlomo "Momo" Lifshitz, whose organization, Oranim, used to provide trips for Birthright, but split this summer because he says he was forbidden from telling participants to "make Jewish babies."

"I'm happy that Birthright understands that this program - if run correctly - can really have an impact on preventing assimilation."

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