Many teens priced out of trips to Israel, new report reveals

Many Jewish parents cannot afford to send their teens to Israel, and the Jewish community should launch a national campaign to help them, according to a new study.

"A high proportion of these trips will have to be substantially underwritten," explains Gary Tobin, director of Brandeis University's Institute for Community and Religion in San Francisco and author of the study.

Tobin is calling for a national campaign to raise money that would help subsidize 5,000 to 50,000 teen trips to Israel annually for 20 years starting in 1996.

Tobin's blueprint for the future, called "Israel Experience Incorporated," would draft short- and long-term financing plans for sending more teens to Israel, and would examine incentives such as cost-cutting on trips. He also proposes efforts to bring Israeli funding sources, like the Jewish Agency, into the campaign.

Although many families don't have enough money to send their teens to the Jewish state, poor marketing is another factor keeping teens from spending summers in Israel, according to Tobin.

While most parents know that organized teen tours of Israel exist, many are unfamiliar with specifics, notes the report, "Teen Trips to Israel: Cost, Price, and Marketing."

"Specifics about the kinds of trips available, and more information about each trip, are needed to `sell' parents on the value of their purchase," Tobin says, with "value" entailing a trip's itinerary, staff, activities and other qualities.

Marketing is also necessary because Israel trips compete with a host of other summer vacation alternatives, both Jewish and non-Jewish oriented, the recently published report points out.

Tobin's study is based on telephone interviews with a random sampling of Jewish adults in 300 U.S. households with children aged 12-18. The breakdown of the households in terms of annual salary and religious observance closely resembles the U.S. Jewish population as seen in the 1990 National Jewish Population Survey. Most households reported being either Reform or Conservative.

Of the parents who had already sent a child to Israel, 77 percent said they were "very satisfied" with the experience, while 9 percent indicated they were "somewhat satisfied." The remainder had no comment.

Despite this showing of parent satisfaction, however, the fact remains that many are inhibited from sending their children due to the high cost, Tobin maintains.

Since many Jewish organizations currently run six-week teen trips to Israel for about $5,000, that figure was used as a base cost in interviews with parents.

The majority said such a price tag poses a serious barrier to sending a child to Israel, and that $2,500 is the approximate price they would be willing and/or able to pay.