Our just released report, “Breaking Barriers: A Look at Birthright Israel Specialized Trips for Participants with Disabilities,” describes what young adults with cognitive and developmental disabilities took away from their Birthright experiences and what their peers will, unfortunately, be missing this summer.
Our research team observed three specialized Birthright trips for young adults with cognitive and developmental disabilities and interviewed participants, their parents, and trip leaders. Almost universally, young adults on these specialized trips described their experiences in Israel as engaging, meaningful, and fun. Participants were excited to be in the Jewish state, to learn about its history, culture, and foods and to get to know Israeli peers. In this way, their experiences were very similar to those of their peers without disabilities. However, for young adults on specialized trips, participation in Birthright Israel had additional significance: a claim to their place in the normative “coming-of-age” experience for contemporary Jewish young adults, friendships with peers with whom they share the experience of being a person with disabilities, and new levels of independence.