Response to Last Week’s Critical Birthright Op-Ed

Hannah Seidel

To the Editor:

Yonah London’s article inthe April 18 edition of the Review, “Birthright Leaves Young Jews Ill-Equipped to Engage in Difficult Conversations,” failed to take into consideration the wide variety of Birthright trips that exist. While it is true that some Birthright trips include little or no education about the complex issues surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, numerous other trips do. Taglit-Birthright is an umbrella organization that contracts with many different providersto plan, organize and staff its tours, which means that the content of any two Birthright trips can vary widely.

For example, Oberlin Hillel’s Birthright trip, which takes place every other year during Winter Term, includes multiple educational sessions before and after the trip. These sessions involve in-depth discussions of Israel-related issues and are partially led by J Street U. On this year’s Oberlin Birthright trip itself, the tour guide discussed wide-ranging issues including the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, Bedouin rights in Israel, religious pluralism in the country and the legal status of the occupied territories. Nor is Oberlin alone; many other schoolsand groups hosting Birthright trips also work with J Street to prepare their participants for the experience and for returning to campus with a nuanced understanding of the country and its complexities.

Taglit-Birthright is an organization whose goal is, as London stated, to enhance its participants’ Jewish identities. It does not claim to have an educational or an advocacy goal, as London seems to desire. So while it is unfortunate that many participants feel unprepared to engage in Israel-related dialogue upon their return, this is by no means universally true.


–Hannah Seidel