Chanel Dubofsky [a former Birthright staffer] says that in order to really combat the broader culture, Birthright might have to push its new anti-harassment message with so robust a training process that it actively deters some potential staff and participants. “I understand that fewer trips flies in the face of the entire mission, but you can’t just make a gesture,” she says. “I’m not interested in controlling people’s sexuality—but there’s a really unhealthy culture. We’re tantalizing you with ‘you will hook up and you will marry’. The trips promote allegiance and a lack of critical thinking. And to talk about rape culture, you have to be able to think critically.”
For Julia Peck, [sexually assaulted on a Birthright trip by a soldier she met on the program] that lack of critical thinking has had repercussions even four years later, making her question a Jewish community bent on “Jewish continuity.” In the effort to produce more Jews, “we forget who bears the brunt of this sexual pressure,” she says.
A recent post from the Instagram account of a Birthright provider [opens] a small window into the cultural mystique that still accompanies the trips. Five women pose with four Israeli soldiers and what appears to be a policeman. They’re laughing, flexing muscles, waving arms, pointing; the policeman makes a “rock-and-roll” gesture with his hand.
The caption reads, “Bring home a soldier to your Jewish mama?”
SARAH SELTZER, from “Birthright Israel and #MeToo,” Jewish Currents, April 18, 2018. As of June, Seltzer is Lilith’s digital editor.