See a Diagram of the Program      Purpose        Outcomes

The Opportunity

The importance of Shomer Achi can be understood in light of some recent trends that we believe, have led to a disconnect between Jewish communities around the world:

People Not Only Land:  Short and long term studies point to students forging a strong connection with the land of Israel but less so with the people of Israel1. Research has shown that short term Israel programs such as Birthright successfully expose Jewish young adults to Israel and offer the opportunity for first time visitors to become familiar with the landscape of the country2. Despite these successes, research also shows that while students initially identify strongly with Israel, the impact of the trip lessens over time 3,4.The obvious disconnect here is that the connection with the "land" is not sustainable outside of Eretz Yisroel; by itself, "land" does not provide  the opportunity for an ongoing, two way relationship. Shomer Achi will establish, strengthen, and bolster living connections between people.
The Two Way Street:   It is commonly acknowledged that the nature of Israeli-Diaspora engagement should be shifting to a more holistic model that understands both communities as contributing to the other. Nonetheless, the direction of Jewish efforts largely flows from North America to Israel. To truly create one Jewish Kehilla (community) there must be a reciprocal relationship wherein Jewish Israelis are afforded the opportunity to relate to and connect with Jews in the Diaspora. Shomer Achi will maintain a mutual method of engagement that not only involves non Israeli Jews in Israel, but Jewish Israelis in diaspora communities.

Galvanized Jewish Communities:   There is a growing disconnect between Israeli and American Jewry. Perhaps this is because Israelis have the option to identify with Judaism either ethnically, culturally, or religiously – all three of which are fostered in Israel to different degrees 5. In America however, Jews are increasingly assimilating into the American lifestyle and culture, and as such do not have the leeway to identify with Judaism in an ethnic context, and so, identify with Judaism religiously6. These differences create barriers in the way each community of Jews can relate to one another. Shomer Achi will not only cultivate relationships between the two communities, but will also encourage discussions that address the social issues of each community as well as the issues facing the Jewish people as a whole; in so doing Shomer Achi will foster an understanding of both perspectives.

1 In the year 2000, while 62% of Birthright participants stayed in contact with other students from their trip, only 8% remained in contact with the Israelis. In 2001 and 2002 this percentage rose, but remained under 18%. Ibid., p. 16.

2 In 2007, 69% of Birthright participants reported that they learned somewhat or very much about the Israeli natural environment. In contrast, 40% of participants indicated that they learned very much about Israeli social problems.Saxe, Leonard, Theodore Sasson, Benjamin Phillips, Shahar Hecht, Graham Wright. Taglit-Birthright Israel Evaluation: 2007 North American Cohorts. (Steinhardt Social Research Institute at the Maurice and Marilyn Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies, December 2007).

3Three months after Birthright participants returned home, 55% of them reported that they felt a strong connection to Israel, one year later this figure decreased to 48%. Saxe, Leonard, Charles Kadushin, Shaul Kelner, Mark I. Rosen, Erez Yereslove. A Mega-Experiment in Jewish Education: The Impact of Birthright Israel. (Maurice and Marilyn Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies, Jan 2002), p. 21.

4 Similarly, combined data from Birthright cohorts in 2000, 2001, and 2002 indicate that two to four years after the trip, the participants' connection to Israel decreases from 60% to 52%. Saxe, Leonard, Charles Kadushin, Shahar Hecht, Mark I. Rosen, Benjamin Phillips, Shaul Kelner. "Evaluating birthright Israel: Long-Term Impact and Recent Findings." Maurice and Marilyn Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies, Brandeis University. November 2004, p.23.

5 "In contrast with societies in which Jews are but a small minority, little consideration has to be given to Jewish identity in Israel. It is largely taken for granted." Thompson, Allison. Sociologist Studies Jewish Identity in Israel, United States. University of Connecticut Advance. Advance on the Web, November 3, 2003. <>.

6 "In the United States, Dashefsky notes, Jewish people are de-emphasizing their ethnicity, and increasing ties to their religion." Ibid.

                                        Donate          Partners           FAQ             Apply