On January 6, Al Levitt, the President of the Jim Joseph Foundation, wrote an Op-Ed piece for the JTA in his new role as Chairman of Birthright Israel NEXT -- Birthright Israel NEXT continuing Jewish journey for young adults. The Op-Ed went on at some length on the plans for post-Birthright experiences for the "[M]ore than 200,000 young Jewish adults worldwide (who) have participated..." in the wonderful Birthright Israel program.
With a preface that questioned "...the extent to which our community is engaging Birthright participants upon their return," Levitt managed to not use the term "federation" in his eleven paragraph summary of plans and programs for Birthright alums -- not once. Now, given the tens of millions of dollars the federations system has invested in Birthright's success, one would have thought that the role of federations in post-trip activities would be at the forefront -- but....no. And, one would have thought, inasmuch as federation leaders have urged a strong post-trip plan since day one, that federations would find a stated role in Levitt's Birthright NEXT plans; but, if that appears not to be the case, that "fact" never made it into the new Chair's Op-Ed.
Since the beginning of Birthright, federations have struggled to find their place within the Birthright governance, in its planning and its execution. Each step of the way has been a struggle. Now, as NEXT moves operational, where is the federation role? From The Jewish Federations of North America all we hear are the sounds of silence. Apparently the federations are expected to provide the funds and just step away, and because Birthright is deemed worthy, as it is, no questions are to be asked -- certainly not the kinds of questions raised with regard to our system's "other partners."
What's that about the "silence is deafening?" Have we no longer a national voice?