“Y2I was a defining moment of my life, helping me to mature and do better academically and socially” said Ian Kane, who recently spoke to teens and parents at a pre-trip meeting. Ian, a senior at Beverly High School, credits Y2I for helping him find his Jewish identity, expanding his social circles, deepening his Jewish pride, and imbuing him with confidence. Y2I has a lasting impact on many teens, as it did on Ian.
Created nearly five decades ago, Lappin Foundation’s Youth to Israel Adventure (Y2I) is the premier Jewish teen engagement experience that builds Jewish pride, connects young people to Israel, builds community, and promotes Jewish continuity. Key to Y2I’s success is the fully subsidized community teen trip to Israel that takes place in July, which is funded by Robert Lappin, the Lappin Family, CJP, and more than 900 donors.
Y2I is not a one-time experience. There are monthly pre-trip programs that educate and excite teens and their parents about Israel, and important monthly post-trip Israel advocacy training for teens when they return home.
Y2I’s scope and reach are extensive. The 2019 Y2I cohort includes 100 Jewish teens from 34 communities and 39 high schools. Forty percent of teens in 2019 Y2I are from interfaith families, a testament to the program’s warm and welcoming environment. “Parents of interfaith families who are raising their children Jewish are my heroes,” proclaimed Robert I. Lappin, president of Lappin Foundation and creator and funder of Y2I. “Thank you for making this important decision, which has a positive impact on the Jewish people.”
Y2I is educational travel at its best. An exciting combination of travel and learning makes this Israel trip truly life-changing for most teens. Though days are long and full, seeing sites, meeting people, and experiencing all that Israel has to offer, many teens are excited to return to Israel soon after the trip is over. The itinerary includes Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Masada and the Dead Sea, the Golan Heights, and every place in between. Often described as a successful first date with Israel, Y2I leaves teens wanting more.
One of the best parts of Y2I is the mifgash (encounter) with Israeli teens. More than 30 Israeli teens from the Young Ambassadors School of Petah Tikvah join the trip for four days. American and Israeli teens form strong bonds and learn from each other. Relationships between Americans and Israelis continue for years, which strengthen our Jewish family. “There is no better way to build long-lasting, strong connections with Israel and our Jewish Family than the Y2I experience,” said Lappin. “Local teens meet and bond, and then the experience extends six thousand miles away, where it is repeated in Israel. It’s been working this way for nearly 50 years.”
Y2I has taken on added importance with the alarming increase in anti-Semitism and anti-Israel activities on college campuses. Y2I provides valuable Israel advocacy training before teens go to college, equipping students with the knowledge and confidence to effectively deal with this disturbing trend. College sophomore Rachel Ellis, 2015 Y2I alumna, said her Y2I experience ignited her Israel activism at UMass Amherst. By the time she arrived on campus, she was prepared to serve as a pro-Israel advocate in a leadership role. “I shared my passion for Israel with my peers, which sparked dialogues about Israel that otherwise may have gone untouched,” explained Ellis.
Robert Lappin believes replicating Y2I in Jewish communities around the country will significantly increase teen travel to Israel, and he believes Birthright Israel is in a position to make this happen. Lappin is launching an international PR campaign to urge Birthright Israel to lower the age of eligibility to 16 and to serve as the funding source for local Jewish communities to organize community teen trips to Israel. Lappin remarked that Y2I’s success is proof the teen Israel experience assures Jewish continuity, builds Jewish pride, and strengthens our Jewish family. “We owe it to our youth to do this,” said Lappin.
Deborah L. Coltin is the executive director of Lappin Foundation.