Thursday, November 5, 2009

Phoning it in for Birthright

Last night, November 4, I participated in a "Phone-a-Thon" to raise money for Taglit Birthright Israel and the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. I actually got to give a speech introducing the event and was a 'chair' of sorts, but enough horn-tootage. About 12 Americans and 8 Israelis also joined in on the fun to raise money which, thanks to the general state of the economy, the Bernie Madoff scandal, and a variety of other factors, is a little short right now for Birthright trips.

I participated in a Birthright trip in the Winter of 2008-09 and felt that, since I was given such an amazing (not to mention FREE) gift, why not try to pay that gift forward to DC area Jews?

Lacking a good reason not to participate in the Phone-a-Thon, I decided to head down to the Schusterman International Center in Chinatown to try to charm unsuspecting parents out of their money. Our 'targets' were DC area parents whose children had recently gone to Israel on a Taglit Birthright trip: striking while the iron is hot, as they say. After a short training session, during which the callers learned how to answer frequently asked questions the parents might have, how to most effectively convey our goals, etc., we took to the phones and got busy. And busy is what I got, as in busy signals. Also voicemails, hang ups, and disconnected numbers.

A good portion of the parents answered though, and the vast majority of them were willing to accept more information about donating. Some even donated over the phone. A big selling point for the donors was the fact that the Adelson Family Foundation will be double matching any of the donations we receive by December 31, 2009. For example, last night we raised $4,000 ($200 of which was raked in by yours truly) over the phones, which in actuality results in $12,000 for Taglit Birthright Israel trips due to the Adelsons' generosity.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington needs to raise $130,000 to send a full bus of DC area participants to Israel, and hopefully they'll get closer to their goal as some of the parents who requested more information mail in their donations. There's also you, dear reader, who can help out. Visit to make a donation which, if you don't remember, will be doubled by the Adelsons. It's really for a great cause and you'll feel good that you were able to help Americans get to Israel free of charge for an amazing 10 day experience. Now more than ever, it's vital we continue building strong ties between the Diaspora and Israel, and Taglit Birthright Israel trips are one of the best ways to ensure our respective communities remain closely knit.

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