This Chanukah, Give Your Child the Gift of Israel

Posted on 12/11/2020 @ 07:00 AM

By Denise Tamir

As a marketing major at the University of Miami, I remember a professor once saying “if you own the city’s ‘best kept secret,’ then you are not marketing it correctly.”
I know no better example of this admonition than GMJF’s Gift of Israel savings program. Few families know about this gem of a resource that was created to help families save thousands of dollars to pay for their children’s peer trips to Israel.
Studies have shown that the strongest indicator of lifelong Jewish communal engagement (a Jewish adult’s likelihood to attend synagogue, marry within the faith, donate to Jewish organizations, and remain part of the Jewish community) is a peer trip to Israel as a teen or young adult.
That is why many years ago, the Greater Miami Jewish Federation prioritized making these trips more affordable for our community’s families by creating a program that was then called “Passport to Israel.”
This savings plan enabled families to save up to $3,000 (before interest) towards their child’s Israel experience by accumulating annual matching contributions of $100.00 from the family, from the Federation, and from participating synagogues over a ten-year period (a 200% match from the community).
Unfortunately, participation in this program has dwindled dramatically over the last decade, which prompted the Israel Engagement Committee that oversees it to embark on a rebranding campaign that will make it more relevant to our community’s families.
Recognizing how important peer trips to Israel are in anchoring our children’s Jewish identity, we started with a fundamental premise-- just as Jewish parents plan for their children to go to college and they save for it early, so Jewish parents must plan for their children to attend a peer trip to Israel and they must save for it early.
Effectively, we want our community’s families to look at this program as “Florida Prepaid” for their child(ren)’s future Israel trip!
The Israel Engagement Committee started by changing the name to “Gift of Israel, to better convey the heartfelt commitment our entire community has made to invest in our children’s Jewish identity through peer educational trips to Israel as a gift from the community.
Then we changed the participation guidelines. Historically, enrollment began in first grade and families made contributions for up to 10 years, ending in 10th grade. However, many of our community programs provide a trip in 9th grade, which left those families unable to benefit from the program’s full potential. We also know that over 80% of Jewish children in our community attend Jewish pre-schools. By lowering the enrollment age to Kindergarten, we could both capitalize on our ability to market to preschool families before they leave the Jewish school system and give families the full ten years to save by 9th grade, when so many students will likely withdraw the funds.
Finally, we moved from paper flyers that had been circulated in the lobbies of all partner organizations for years, to an online presence that provides families all of the information they need, as well as all the registration materials.
As this is our community’s gift to our families, we feel Chanukah is the perfect time to launch our newly branded “Gift of Israel” savings program with the tagline: This Chanukah, give your child the Gift of Israel.
When you see our information circulating through our community, please pass the information on to any family that you think should enroll in this important program. It will be a Gift of Israel to participating children and a gift to ourselves as we increase the number of Jewishly committed adults in our community in the future.
Denise Tamir, Esq. is an attorney and mediator who has been involved in Miami’s Jewish community as both a professional and lay leader for over two decades. She currently serves as Chair of GMJF’s Israel Engagement Committee,

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