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Direct Mail Fundraising Material - BIRTHRIGHT ISRAEL

November 21, 2016 BIRTHRIGHT ISRAEL FOUNDATION direct mail fundraising appeal

In 1998, Benjamin Netanyahu announced a new initiative directed against Jewish assimilation and intermarriage with non-Jews that he viewed as a “demographic threat, through a jointly funded Israeli government–Jewish Federations program, ‘Birthright Israel.’” Birthright Israel was a delayed reaction to those frightening—to the federations at least—survey results on the threat of “assimilation.”

The 1990 Council of Jewish Federations survey found that more than half of all American Jews intermarried and that 38 percent of Jews under 18—and 72 percent of the children of intermarried parents—were being raised in other faiths. Before 1965, only 9 percent of American Jews intermarried. The 1990 study found an intermarriage rate of 57 percent.

Birthright’s donor base in 2001 was narrow, with just seven big donors providing 91 percent of its $14.6 million in revenues. Canadian-American billionaire Charles Bronfman and hedge fund manager Michael Steinhardt were two important founding members. Another donor and board member was Marc Rich, the international financier, commodities trader and hedge fund manager who was indicted in the United States for tax evasion and making illegal oil deals with Iran during the hostage crisis. Rich remained in Switzerland at the time of the indictment until he received a presidential pardon from U.S. President Bill Clinton on January 20, 2001, as he was about to leave office. This had been the recommendation of Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder. In 2005, Rich left Birthright’s board and was replaced by AIPAC’s former Near East Report newsletter editor and CNN’s situation room host, Wolf Blitzer.

Birthright’s annual revenue growth curve has been steep and is on track to reach $150 million by year 2020, with billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson standing out as a key funder. By far the biggest donor to Birthright, Adelson increased his total donations to the organization to $160 million with a year 2015 donation of $40 million. The program’s free ten-day trips to Israel for teenage Jews from American colleges and universities are nicknamed “birthrate Israel.” Participants who note the non-rigorous schedule and fact that the purpose is to build affinity with, as opposed to encourage Aliya to, Israel, coined this label. “Hooking up” and bonding with other American Jews to become future affinity leaders and reduce the dreaded “intermarriage” rate is really what the trips are all about.

Birthright Israel incentivizes potential donors to take advantage of matching grants made anonymously by wealthy board members. "Today, your gift can go three times as far because several generous Birthright Israel Foundation board members, who wish to remain anonymous, will triple every eligible gift up to $1 million, so we hope you will be especially generous!"

Birthright doesn't hide its "birthrate" agenda, and sprinkles its fundraising appeal with revealing anecdotes:

 "Birthright Israel was a revelation for Mary, who knew few Jews growing up. Through bonding with her tripmates, celebrating a meaningful Shabbat and exploring Israel's iconic sights, 'I experienced the greatest, most powerful spiritual awakening,' she says.

Now, seven years later, Mary is married to the love of her life—a man she met on her trip. They are planting roots in a vibrant Jewish community and plan to raise a family. "I'm looking forward to building a Jewish life with my husband," she says

Organization historical content excerpted with permission from the book BIG ISRAEL How Israel's Lobby Moves America

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