In the 1990s, there was growing concern – shared by many here in Cincinnati – that Jewish youth in America felt less connected to the broader organized Jewish community and to the State of Israel, the homeland of the Jewish People. The Jewish Foundation acted on that concern by creating a groundbreaking initiative to encourage more young people in our community to participate in Israel educational programs, which had already developed a track record as critical Jewish identity-building experiences.
Since 2000, more than 2,000 Jewish young people from Cincinnati have traveled to Israel using Cincy Journeys grants to develop stronger, more personal connections with Israel and their Jewish heritage. Cincinnati holds the distinction of sending more Jewish youth, per capita, on these Israel programs than any other Jewish community in North America.
How the Program Works
Cincy Journeys’ Israel travel grants program is unique relative to what any other Jewish community offers its youth and young adults – up to $11,500 for two separate Israel travel opportunities: one grant for up to $6,500 in high school and another for up to $5,000 following high school graduation (up to age 26.) There is no limit to the number of grants available and they are not need-based.
The program, now known as Cincy Journeys, is a collaborative effort between The Jewish Foundation, which provides 100% of the funding, and the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, which administers the program and is responsible for marketing, vetting applications, administering the grants, and facilitating pre- and post-trip engagement programming.
Achieving Lasting Impact
As a result of the Cincy Journeys grant program, more than half of the Cincinnati Jewish community (52%) has traveled to Israel – a much higher percentage than the national Jewish communal average (35%). The impact of this is clear in the results of the 2008 Cincinnati Jewish Community Study, which found that the majority of younger respondents feel a closer identification with the State of Israel, feel a closer connection with the Jewish people, and are better advocates for Israel. Overall, the percentage of younger Jews in Cincinnati who reported being very emotionally connected to Israel (42%) was much higher than for all other age groups (32%).