Masa Israel, a joint project of the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Israeli government which serves as an umbrella for 180 semester and year programs in Israel, commissioned the study to measure the efficacy of long term Israel programs for future Jewish involvement and affiliation.
The study was conducted by Prof. Steven M. Cohen, director of the Berman Jewish Policy Archive at NYU Wagner and research professor of Jewish social policy at the Hebrew Union College, and Dr. Ezra Kopelowitz, principal of Research Success.
The study found that the longer the program on which participants spent time in Israel and the more repeated the experiences, the greater the level of Jewish identification.
The study surveyed more than 13,000 Israel program participants, more than 11,000 of whom were Americans, and most of whom had been on either a short-term experience or a Masa program from 2005 to 2010, or both.
It compared three groups who had been on short-term programs:
those who been on Birthright and not returned to Israel
those who returned to Israel for another short term; and
those who had been on Birthright, and then went on a Masa Israel program.
The study also examined two other groups who had been on long term programs only: those non-Orthodox young adults who had been on Masa without going on Birthright, and those who were raised Orthodox and had been on Masa.
These two groups reported far stronger Jewish background and childhood Jewish education than did the three Birthright groups.
The study found that with each subsequent Israel experience, the level of Jewish engagement rose significantly.
For example, for the married respondents, among those who did Birthright and had not returned subsequently to Israel, 50% married a Jewish spouse; among those who did Birthright and returned to Israel subsequently for a short term, 70% married Jews; among those who did Birthright followed by Masa, as many as 91% were in-married.
In other words, short term program graduates who never returned to Israel reported intermarriage rates close to the national Jewish average for people their age.
In contrast, those who went on to participate in a Masa program were far more likely to marry Jewish, doing so in more than nine out of 10 instances.