November 18, 2018

Birthright group asks alum to lobby Congress against Iran Nuclear deal

On Tuesday, a New York-based Birthright Israel alumni group sent an email to all of its members urging them to lobby Congress to reject the nuclear arms agreement between Iran and the United States.

The email, however, does not speak for the national and global Birthright Israel organization, according to the latter’s president.

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The rejection appeal was spelled out in a mass email to the membership, using the logo of the Birthright Israel Foundation, which appealed to members to “Help the State of Israel by contacting your congressman and senator and requesting that they reject this deal and override President Obama’s veto of their decision.”

The non-profit Birthright Israel Foundation underwrites the program of sending young Jewish adults from the United States and around the globe for 10-day organized trips to Israel to strengthen Jewish identity, communities and ties to Israel.

Rebecca Sugar, executive director of The Alumni Community, said that the appeal had been emailed to some 35,000 former participants of Birthright Israel, residing primarily in New York City, but also in parts of New Jersey and Connecticut.

Sugar said that she was very happy with the decision to launch the appeal to Congress and hoped that other Jewish organizations would follow suit. “This is an existential moment for Israel and we should all care about that,” she said.

She noted that the alumni group had not consulted with the Birthright Israel Foundation or its leadership before launching and publicizing the appeal to influence Congress.

There is no similar alumni group anywhere else in the United States, and Jay Sanderson, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, confirmed that no such group exists in the Los Angeles area.

He estimated that 35,000 to 40,000 former Birthright Israel participants reside in Los Angeles County.

David Fisher, president of the Birthright Israel Foundation, headquartered in New York, confirmed that he had received no advance notice of the action by the alumni group, which he described as a separate organization, with no ties to the foundation.

Asked whether the alumni group’s initiative might be interpreted as an intervention by his non-profit organization in a highly emotional political issue, Fisher declined comment.