NEXT's High Holidays Initiative: Connecting the Birthright Israel Generation to Meaningful Experiences

August 12, 2013

  • Jewish Community
  • Jewish Holidays

Morlie Levin is the CEO of NEXT: A Division of Birthright Israel Foundation. NEXT connects Birthright Israel trip alumni and their peers with meaningful Jewish living and learning opportunities nationally, locally and in Israel and also works to create a Jewish community that is ready to receive alumni, who possess diverse needs, interests and inclinations.

What does it mean to actually engage young Jewish adults? When you get past the many conversations about this concept, what do the “nuts and bolts” look like?

We believe it starts with connecting—to each other, to Jewish opportunities and to communities. NEXT’s 2013 High Holidays Initiative empowers young Jewish adults to connect in all of these ways. While we work to build these connections year-round, the High Holidays provide a special opportunity to make Jewish life more accessible.

By illuminating the myriad events and services available around the country, we empower young adults to find themselves in our community and also to create experiences and celebrations of their own. Our interactive map at represents cities and different events and celebrations. From synagogues to independent spiritual communities, to fun Holiday events and learning opportunities, young adults will be able to search their cities and locate experiences they find meaningful. They’ll also be able to filter events according to what matters most to them: LGBT-friendly events, egalitarian services and numerous other personal preferences. Some of these events will even offer free or discounted tickets.

This year we added a new component to the High Holiday Initiative, because community building is more than just connecting to Jewish opportunities. It is about creating one’s own meaningful Jewish experiences and creating micro-communities, often times with friends. We have seen the success of our other do-it-yourself offerings, such as NEXT Shabbat and Passover Seders, and received feedback from Birthright Israel alumni that they wanted similar options during the High Holidays.

They asked and we are delivering. For the first time ever, Birthright Israel alumni can sign up to receive resources to host Rosh Hashanah meals and Yom Kippur break-the-fasts with their friends, along with a full High Holiday toolkit and primer online. On our website they will find traditional and modern holiday insights, along with our Pinterest boards that include recipes, festive meal ideas and High Holiday humor. They also can sign up to receive small subsidies for their holiday meals.

Young adults are eager to re-create the sense of community and meaning they experienced on their Birthright Israel trip. The High Holidays come on the heels of thousands of Taglit-Birthright participants returning from their summer trips—joining the hundreds of thousands of alumni from past years. Their newfound personal connections to Judaism, Israel, the Jewish people, and of course one another, are ripe for growth. Now is the time to capitalize on those feelings and make Jewish opportunities more accessible. Our intention is that the interactive map and resources for creating High Holiday experiences will help young Jewish adults tap into their community, celebrate with friends and see what Jewish life is all about.

We have an incredible opportunity to help young Jewish adults turn a ten-day trip into a lifelong Jewish journey. As we contemplate the last year and celebrate 5774, we look forward to connecting young adults to all that our wonderful community has to offer. L’ shana tova u'metukah, a happy and meaningful New Year to all.