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Are Birthright participants more likely to marry Jews? A study says yes

A new study used data the Pew Research Center collected for its 2020 study of American Jews

American Jews who go on Birthright Israel trips are more than twice as likely to marry a Jew than Jewish peers of similar backgrounds who have never been to Israel.

That’s one of the findings of a new study from the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University that relied on data from the Pew Research Center. It showed that while 15% of Jews who did not go on Birthright trips went on to marry other Jews, 39% of those who went on the trips did.

Years of Birthright’s own surveys had shown that the young American Jews who go on the free trips enhance their feelings of belonging to the Jewish people and their attachment to Israel. Birthright officials say the Cohen Center, which analyzed responses from Pew’s 2020 study of American Jews, for the first time validated the nonprofit’s own surveys with independently collected data.

Gidi Mark, CEO of Birthright Israel, said the new analysis confirms that “Birthright Israel is the most successful social Jewish venture and one of the programs with the greatest impact on the Jewish people’s future.”

The study did not consider whether Birthright participants might be a self-selected group with preexisting attitudes about marrying within the faith or a favorable predisposition toward Israel. 

Founded 22 years ago, Birthright provides 10-day trips to Israel for Jewish young adults between the ages of 18 to 32, though starting next year the upper age limit will be 26. So far it has sent 800,000 Jews to Israel. Its goal, according to its website, is “to ensure the future of the Jewish people.”

Among other findings from the Cohen Center study, Birthright participants, compared to Jewish peers who had not traveled to Israel, were:

  • 85% more likely to feel “somewhat” or “very” attached to Israel
  • 54% more likely to feel a “great deal” of belonging to the Jewish people
  • 58% more likely to feel “a lot” in common with Israeli Jews
  • 45% more likely to have attended a Seder the previous Passover

Birthright is funded in the U.S. by individual donors and partnerships with, among others, the government of Israel and the Jewish Federations of North America.

A spokesperson for the Pew Research Center, Anna Schiller, declined comment on the Cohen Center study: “As a matter of policy, we don’t comment on other people’s analysis of our data because it’s a big time commitment to understand and then replicate their analysis.”

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