You’re a young, committed couple and you’ve been together for a few years. One or both of you are Jewish, and you’re exploring big decisions about building a Jewish life together.
What’s the next step? How about a 10-day immersive trip to Israel with 19 other local couples, where you can explore Jewish history, traditions, and identity together, on your own terms, and make Jewish connections with couples like yourselves?
Honeymoon Israel (HMI), in partnership with the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, is bringing that opportunity to Puget Sound couples. The Seattle cohort’s trip to Israel will take place May 16-26, 2019, and the application window will be open through November 18 this year.
Couples accepted for the journey will pay just $2,200 each, which includes air travel to and from Israel, as well as hotel stays, activities, and most meals. The total per-couple cost of the trip is $10,000, with the Federation and HMI picking up the balance of the cost.
Federation is bringing this opportunity to Jewish Puget Sound because of its community-building benefits. The goal is to give committed couples the knowledge, inspiration, and sense of belonging to connect with Jewish life and incorporate Jewish values into their lives in whatever way works for them.
“Honeymoon Israel is a remarkable program to engage with young couples and introduce them to what Jewish life can be on an individual basis and as part of a larger community. I am looking forward to watching a cohort of HMI alumni in our region develop, further enriching the meaningful connections we are creating to Jewish life,” Federation President & CEO Nancy B. Greer says.
For Franni Paley and Bobby Ottesen, a Seattle couple who just moved to the Puget Sound region and who went on an HMI trip as part of a Boston cohort, “Honeymoon Israel was so much more than we expected. Well-planned itinerary, very inclusive and engaging with lots of time for exploration. We appreciated the opportunity to connect with our neighbors and also spend quality time together as a couple.”
Honeymoon Israel, which has run 67 trips to Israel as of July 2018, was founded four years ago, shortly after the Pew Research Center published “A Portrait of Jewish Americans,” which showed that millennial Jews increasingly identify as Jews by culture and intermarriage has become commonplace. The impetus for Honeymoon Israel was the need to “authentically welcome” young couples to Jewish life in a way that respects where they are, Honeymoon Israel Co-CEO and Co-Founder Avi Rubel says.
Rubel notes that there hasn’t been much Jewish programming tailored for such couples. “We looked around the Jewish community and saw a lot of programming and resources for teens and young adults, and programs for families with children, but for couples making decisions about the kind of home life they would have, there really wasn’t a lot for that group,” he adds.
So, how does Honeymoon Israel work? Eligible couples should be in the first five years of marriage or a committed life partnership, between the ages of 25 and 40, and at least one partner must be Jewish. Also, only one partner can have experience on an organized post-high school peer trip to Israel, such as Birthright. “We’re really looking for couples exploring their identity and trying to figure it out,” Rubel explains.
Local partnerships – like working with the Federation for the Seattle trip – are essential, Rubel says. “At the end of the day, we run an Israel trip, but the couples will come back and establish connections with their local community,” he explains.
For that reason, the Federation is collaborating with community organizations, including local synagogues and other young adult groups, to create welcoming opportunities for all trip applicants to engage in Jewish life. “We are so excited about the interest in this trip, and with 20 couples joining on our first trip, we want to ensure that everyone who has expressed interest feels they have low-barrier access points to explore Jewish life in Seattle,” says Jenna Hanauer, PAVE & Young Adult Leadership Program Manager for the Federation.
Hanauer, who is overseeing the HMI program for Federation, strongly believes that “travel models like Honeymoon Israel are a key ingredient in inspiring this demographic to explore its connection to Judaism in a fun and meaningful way.” She is also “looking forward to supporting people’s journey of self-reflection during and after the trip.”
The outlook for Honeymoon Israel making a significant community-building impact in the Puget Sound region is bright. “We’ve received inquiries from over 100 couples in Seattle expressing interest in the program. We’re very excited to be launching in Seattle,” Rubel says.
Rabbi Aaron Meyer at Temple De Hirsch Sinai, who will accompany the Seattle cohort on next year’s trip, says “a relationship with the State of Israel is an essential component of Jewish identity.” Rabbi Meyer adds experiencing Israel, in all its complexities, “while bringing Jewish history and peoplehood to renewed life, is the focus of Honeymoon Israel. In the preparations for this experience, on the trip itself, and in the years that follow, participants will explore and foster a relationship not only with Israel but with the Jewish community that will embrace them throughout their years in Seattle.”
By giving committed young couples an immersive Jewish experience and an opportunity to create relationships with couples like themselves, HMI is another way the Federation is investing in Jewish life, for today and the years ahead, long after the honeymoon is over.
Young Adult Opportunities at Federation
20 young adults graduated from the Advanced Leadership Development Program in 2018.
20 young-adult philanthropists will take part in the Seattle NowGen Giving Circle.
20 committed young couples will go on an immersive Honeymoon Israel trip to our Jewish homeland.