RootOne: Changing the Landscape of Teen Travel to Israel
November 3rd, 2022
Going on this Israel trip was the best experience of my life. I made new friends and strengthened relationships with old ones, all while discovering the deep religious and personal connection I have with the land of Israel.
– RootOne Teen
After just two summers, RootOne LLC at The Jewish Education Project is changing the landscape of teen travel to Israel. Last summer alone, more than 5,000 American teens received $3,000 towards travel to Israel on immersive summer programs with RootOne-affiliated trip providers. Every one of these participants spent hours learning about Israel through RootOne’s online learning portal before stepping foot on the plane, and returned home to a comprehensive set of Israel-based opportunities designed to deepen their connection to Israel. The RootOne initiative is not just maximizing the number of Jewish teens participating in meaningful Israel summer experiences, it is ensuring that these experiences have a lifelong impact.
From the moment they register with one of 40 RootOne affiliated trip provider partners, teens embark on an educational journey. This journey is rich in content, completely interactive, and connects what they learn pre-trip with what they experience in Israel and upon their return. As an example, through RootOne’s partnership with the Israeli organization ENTER Peoplehood, 1,500 American and 1,500 Israeli teens are matched in one-on-one online conversations over the course of five weeks before the summer begins, as part of the One2One program. American teens forge personal connections and friendships with their Israeli counterparts, and gain a better understanding of what it means to be a teenager in Israel today. Some teens even met up with their new Israeli friends in person over the summer, something RootOne aims to grow and expand.
Beyond One2One, teens can select from dozens of learning experiences on RootOne’s teen portal in order to complete 18 “nekudot”, or credits, toward their travel voucher. In 2022, 98 percent of the more than 5,000 Jewish teens completed an average of 14 hours of learning prior to boarding the plane to Israel — over 68,000 hours of online Jewish learning on one platform.
Once in Israel, RootOne affiliated trips integrate Israeli teens into their daily activities as full participants, a new take on the traditional “mifgash.” Teens experience itineraries that are crafted with RootOne’s eighteen stated outcomes, which are informed by the most recent research on North American Jewish teens. These outcomes include crucial developmental milestones such as gaining the confidence to engage in informed conversations about Israel with their peers upon returning; better understanding the significance of the State of Israel in Jewish history; better understanding the multiplicity of voices and perspectives, needs, and desires of all the peoples living in Israel; and feeling a greater sense of pride in being Jewish.
A seminal moment of summer 2022 was the Big Tent that brought together 2,300 teens in Rishon LeZion for a massive celebration with music, activities, performances, and rallying speeches. The Big Tent event will be a hallmark of future RootOne summer experiences.
This moment belongs to us….it’s our time to be heard, and to listen…it’s our time to feel like we’re part of something bigger – much bigger – and it’s our time to feel like we’re not alone. – Levi Fox, senior from BBYO, at Big Tent event
After returning home, teens have a range of opportunities for continued engagement in Israel and in Jewish life, fueled by their trip providers on a local and regional level, and complemented by RootOne on a national level. RootOne’s Teen Advisory Committee meets regularly to shape post-trip experiences, which includes ongoing exclusive access to certain courses and programs, and teens can choose to continue their participation in the One2One program, meeting with and learning from Israeli teens during the rest of the year.
After two summers, RootOne feels it has arrived. Taken together, the number of teen travelers and the number of their educational hours shows the power and scale of this engagement model. More than 9,000 Jewish teens in those summers traveled to Israel through its partner trip providers — double the number who would have gone to Israel without RootOne vouchers.
Moving forward, RootOne’s ambitious plans for growth include new partnerships to ensure that all Jewish teens are given the opportunity to travel to Israel, regardless of affiliations or access to existing Youth Serving Organizations. Soon, more teens will arrive on college campuses with stronger connections to Israel and the confidence and desire to build a meaningful community of peers.
RootOne LLC, an ambitious initiative seeded by a generous gift from The Marcus Foundation, is a Delaware limited liability company, whose sole member is the Board of Jewish Education, Inc. d/b/a The Jewish Education Project, a New York not-for-profit corporation.