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March 10, 2015

Groups Sponsoring Israel Travel Debate Right Age for Trips

A rift has developed among Jewish-American charities that sponsor trips for young people to Israel over whether such travel is appropriate before college age, according to The Wall Street Journal. The largest such group, Taglit-Birthright Israel, limits its free, 10-day trips to participants 18 and older, but prominent Jewish philanthropist Robert Lappin wants to open them up to 16- and 17-year-olds.

Birthright, which is financially backed by casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, has provided more than 400,000 trips aimed at helping young Jews forge ties to Israel and combat anti-Semitism at home. "Explanations [about Israel] that are going to be given to [youngsters] at 16 aren't going to resonate with them as much at this stage in their lives," said Gidi Mark, Birthright's chief executive.

Mr. Lappin's foundation has sent some 2,000 Jewish-American teens to visit Israel since 1971. He and some other Jewish charity leaders cite studies showing declining religious identity among young American Jews in arguing for expanding travel programs to high schoolers.