With New Support, Honeymoon Israel Poised to Connect Thousands of Couples to Jewish Life
August 10th, 2017
Two-Year Old Organization Proves its Model of Inclusive Israel Trips for Diverse Couples
New York, NY – Honeymoon Israel, a Jewish organization that provides group trips to Israel for couples ages 25-40 with at least one Jewish partner, has received a $1.5 million three-year investment from the Jim Joseph Foundation to grow in its existing 14 cities, to expand to new cities, and to further develop and refine how it helps trip participants build their Jewish community once they return home. While the organization is only two years old, already nearly 1,000 couples (out of 3,100 who applied) have either participated on one of the first 34 trips, or have been accepted to participate on future Honeymoon Israel trips through May 2018. Approximately 500 couples have applied and are qualified to participate, but have not yet been accepted due to limited capacity.
“When young adults from diverse backgrounds have the opportunity to connect deeply with their partner and with other couples in similar stages of life—all in the context of an intimate trip exploring Israel and Jewish life—there is demand,” says Avi Rubel, Co-CEO of Honeymoon Israel. “A powerful sense of family and support develops over the nine day trip as couples learn and grow together, in an entirely inclusive environment where no question, no way of life, and no belief system is off-limits.”
Each trip includes 20 diverse couples from the same city so they can continue to maintain friendships and build Jewish community with one another after the trip. Honeymoon Israel is welcoming of couples of all backgrounds, including LGBTQ, interfaith, couples where both partners were born Jewish and couples where one partner has converted/Jew by choice. Participants are early in their committed relationship (within five years of marriage) and are interested in building homes and families with deep and meaningful connections to Jewish life and the Jewish people. Eighty-five percent of couples say they feel a new sense of belonging to the Jewish community and a connection to Israel after Honeymoon Israel.
“Not a month has gone by since returning from our trip that we have not spent time with at least one other couple from our trip,” say Thomas and Rebecca of San Francisco. “Seeing, touching and feeling Israel together as a newly married interfaith couple was a profound experience,” add Diana and Karen from Los Angeles. And Michelle and Scott from Phoenix say “For me, my Judaism has been renewed, and for Michelle, her interest in the history and culture has been sparked.” One couple from San Francisco provided an especially memorable experience for their fellow participants when they decided to have a Jewish wedding ceremony during the trip.
While still in start-up phase, the concept and model of the trip is proven successful by an independent evaluation from Rosov Consulting. The new investment from the Jim Joseph Foundation and other recent funders will help the organization scale the model to engage more couples in effective and meaningful ways both during the trip and after.
“We are focused on a vision of every committed couple with at least one Jewish partner having basic knowledge, inspiration, support system, and sense of belonging to build a family with meaningful connections to Jewish life and the Jewish people,” Rubel adds. “Immersive group travel to Israel is a powerful way for couples to encounter and explore history, tradition and identity together, on their own terms.”
The independent evaluation, in addition to demonstrating successful post-trip community building, shows myriad other positive outcomes from the trip: after Honeymoon Israel, a partner who previously felt less “ownership” of Judaism now feels a more common and “level” connection to Jewish life as her or his partner; partners are more comfortable talking to each other about religion; couples are engaging in Jewish life, such as community events and synagogue programs because other Honeymoon Israel couples attend; and couples feel more included and a part of “the Jewish family,” a powerful message they receive on the trip that stays with them back home.
“Honeymoon Israel engages couples in formative stages and shows that Jewish experiences and learning can in fact add value to their lives and create deeply meaningful community,” adds Barry Finestone, President and CEO of the Jim Joseph Foundation. “The Foundation is excited to join with others to help scale the model and engage even more couples from a range of backgrounds in this powerful experience.”
With the generous support of funders, Honeymoon Israel subsidizes each trip to cost $1,800 per couple. To date, Honeymoon Israel has launched in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Denver/Boulder, Los Angeles, Montreal, New York City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Richmond, San Diego, San Francisco & Washington DC.