Why is this Important?
All of the research on Israel-Diaspora relations suggests that the single best way to increase Israel attachment is through an Israel experience. Given the high priority that Toronto’s Jewish community places on its relationship with Israel, these measures of the frequency of visits of our community members to Israel on organized trips are of the highest importance. Of course there are a large number of visitors to Israel on private trips each year as well.
What are the trends?
By far the largest number of participants in Israel travel are there for a relatively short period of time. In 2015, nearly 1,300 Jewish young adults from Greater Toronto went on a Birthright trip to Israel – an impressive 26% increase since 2014. A much smaller number, 265 individuals, participated in the much more extensive five to 11 month experience under the MASA umbrella in 2015. Here too, participation levels rose by a striking 31% since 2014. Even more remarkable, 100% of MASA respondents reported that they would be more likely to take a leadership role in Jewish life at home or at university after their Israel experience. In 2015, Toronto Olim accounted for 42% of Canadians making aliyah, slightly less than the percentage of Canadian Jews who live in Greater Toronto (48%).
The newest Israel experience is Onward Israel: a framework for six to ten week meaningful experiences for students and young adults in Israel. The goal of Onward Israel is to provide participants with an immersive and transformative resumé building experience in Israel, featuring opportunities such as internships, service learning, academic courses and fellowships. While participation is modest – 32 individuals in 2015, the Toronto program doubled in size since 2014.
How are we doing?
Toronto’s much-celebrated strong connection to Israel is supported by “facts on the ground.” The number of participants in each type of Israel experience — from Birthright through Aliyah — increased between 2014 and 2015.