RootOne’s Impact on the Jewish Community Landscape – eJewish Philanthropy
It was Kabbalat Shabbat at the New Jerusalem Station. I was introduced to someone as the CEO of the Jewish Education Project. A few minutes later, she returned with her two teenage sons, who both shook my hand and thanked our organization for providing them with a RootOne voucher that made their first trip to Israel possible this summer.
It was the opening ceremony of the Maccabiah Games at Teddy Stadium. The family sitting next to my Jewish Education Project team and I talked about how thrilled they were to be in Israel – to meet their daughter who was attending a RootOne program. They added that in preparation for their visit, the whole family took part in RootOne’s e-learning program to learn more about the country they were all going to be visiting for the first time.
It was the RootOne Big Tent event in Rishon LeZion. I was introduced to 4 teenagers, two Israelis and two Americans, although at first glance it was impossible to tell which teenager was from which country. These teenagers had met that afternoon for the first time in person – after spending more than 5 hours talking to each other online, in a program sponsored by Enter People, designed to do exactly what I saw under my eyes – to create bonds, relationships and maybe even friendships, between Jewish teenagers on the other side of the ocean.
As CEO of The Jewish Education Project, responsible for the RootOne initiative, it’s easy for me to get caught up in the sheer scale and scope of this 2-year-old initiative. RootOne’s partnerships with over 40 travel providers and 30 education providers across the spectrum of Jewish life in Israel and North America make it one of the broadest initiatives in the Jewish community ecosystem. These partnerships lead to impressive numbers. In two summers, even with COVID anxiety, more than 9,000 Jewish teenagers have traveled to Israel with RootOne, double the number who would have traveled to Israel without RootOne vouchers. In 2022 alone, 98% of the more than 5,000 Jewish teenagers completed an average of 14 hours of learning before boarding the plane to Israel, or more than 85,000 hours of online Jewish learning over a single platform.
The Marcus Foundation decided to host RootOne at the Jewish Education Project because of the desire from the start to create more than just a trip to Israel. For this bold initiative to turn a generation of teenagers into proud Jews and a deep commitment to Israel, it had to be based on an organization committed to ambitious results.
RootOne’s immersive and other high-quality educational experiences in Israel are deeply informed by The Jewish Education Project’s strong understanding of today’s Jewish adolescents, gleaned over many years through our work with the UJA-Federation of New York and the Jim Joseph Foundation. Additionally, learnings from our ongoing research and evaluations of RootOne conducted by Rosov Consulting ensure the initiative continues to evolve and improve. We share these learnings with our partners, including the Jewish Agency, iCenter, Unpacked and others, to provide the best platform that covers the entire Jewish community. All of these qualities have led to a growing list of philanthropic foundations supporting the RootOne initiative’s ambitious growth plan, which now also includes programmatic and financial support from Israel’s Diaspora Ministry through Mosaic United.
And to think that this is all very new and some of you reading this article may not even have heard of RootOne yet. I can assure you that as CEO of the Jewish Education Project, we are honored and proud to host the RootOne initiative. In the months and years to come, you will learn more about RootOne as it continues to expand and impact the Jewish community landscape. To learn more about its scale and impact, remember the anecdotes I shared at the beginning of this article – they remind us all that behind every data point we encounter in the Jewish community, there is a history whose ripple will be felt for many years and generations to come.
David Bryfman is CEO of The Jewish Education Project.