Published On: Sun, Jun 7th, 2015

Honeymoon Israel: Birthright for Interfaith Couples

The idea is to do something about the growing problem of intermarriage among Jews in the U.S.

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A new organization called “Honeymoon Israel” brings interfaith couples to the Holy Land for trips. Think of it as Birthright, but for older intermarried Jews and their spouses.

Everyone by now has heard about Birthright. It offers free trips to Israel for Jewish youths who have never had the opportunity to visit the country before.

The idea is to do something about the growing problem of intermarriage among Jews in the U.S. Last year a Pew study showed that a smaller percentage of American Jews are affiliated with synagogues than ever before and more than ever are marrying out.

Honeymoon Israel provides highly subsidized, 9-day trips to Israel for groups of couples from the same city. Couples must be in their first 5 years of marriage or lifelong, committed relationship, have at least one Jewish partner and be ages 25-40 (at least one partner must be 40 or under at the time of the trip). Honeymoon Israel is describes itself as a completely inclusive program, welcoming Jewish-Jewish, interfaith and LGBTQ couples.

The total cost for participating couples is $1, 800 including all flights and ground costs. So unlike birthright, it is not free, but still very cheap.

Participants experience Israel’s culture, economy, politics and nature in a way you could never do on your own. Together with 19 other couples from the same city they spend nine days in Israel doing things like hiking Masada or floating in the Dead Sea, attending performances, sampling local cuisine, and exploring Israel’s diversity and complexity.They also get a chance to meet Israelis, participate in Shabbat experiences, and visit sites important to Jewish, Christian, and Muslim history.

The organization declares its goal to be to expand the definition of Jewish life in America and to offer enjoyable experiences for couples to connect with one another and to the Jewish community in whatever way works for them.

Honeymoon Israel states that it does not have a specific agenda or prescription for this, but seeks to support couples in their own exploration and to foster the organic development of community.

“We plan on raising our household Jewish, ” Jay Belfore, a trip participant who was raised Catholic and whose wife, Mikelle, is Jewish, told JTA. “In order for me to gain a better understanding of the culture, seeing Israel is important to us.”

“My hope was that Jay would learn about Judaism on a deeper level and would feel more involved in our children’s upbringing, ” Mikelle said. “Honeymoon Israel has created a safe place for couples in similar situations.”

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