Gift of Israel

by Davo Knepler

Imagine a contingent of Valley teens traveling to Israel, soaking up the sights, smells and history of the Holy Land. Imagine their excitement as they step off the plane, and are immediately absorbed by the land described in our Torah. Israel — the link of our past to our future.

Imagine the financial burden of this trip being greatly assisted by our Congregation and the Jewish Community Federation.

The Gift of Israel Savings Program involves a commitment from you, our Congregation, and the JCF, to the children in our community. And your commitment has a money-back-with-interest provision, so if you or your child change your mind, you get your investment back. But let’s hope this is one money-back guarantee you’ll never want –or have– to use.

Here are the most frequently asked questions, with answers:

  1. How does it work?
    There are two main entry points.

    • If you begin when your child is in 3rd Grade, you contribute $150 a year for 8 years, until they finish 10th Grade. The Congregation contributes $50 annually, and the Jewish Community Federation puts in $125 each year. That means that while you’ve been putting in $150, it’s been matched with $175. At the end of the 8 years, $2600 plus interest will have been saved.
    • If you begin when your child is in 7th Grade, you contribute $250 a year for 4 years, until they finish 10th Grade. The Congregation contributes $50 annually, and the Jewish Community Federation puts in $200 each year, creating an equal match. At the end of 4 years, $2000, plus interest, will have been saved.
  2. Does that mean that all the children will be traveling at the end of 10th Grade?
    No. Your child can go on any approved Israel Experience trip any time between the end of 10th Grade donation and the freshman year of college.
  3. What’s an approved Israel Experience trip?
    It must be at least 5 weeks in length, educational in nature, and for a peer group of young people who travel, learn and experience together. There is a list of approved trips (currently 50), updated continually, available to you for review, which will be sent automatically to you when your child enters 10th Grade.
  4. Will $2000-$2600 cover the whole trip?
    Maybe yes, maybe no, depending which trip you select. You are responsible for any shortfall.
  5. Can I only contribute $150 or $200 a year?
    No. You can use the program as a Savings Account for grandparents, other family members and friends to contribute to any time, in any amount, with the account gaining interest just like any other account. It’s a great fund to mention around birthdays, chanukah, and bar/bat mitzvahs. The Congregation and Federation contribution does not change.
  6. Do I have to wait until 3rd or 7th Grade to start contributing?
    No, you can start contributing any time, even at the child’s birth. The Congregation and Federation contributions kick in at 3rd or 7th Grade.
  7. What’s this money-back guarantee part?
    All the money you contribute, plus interest on that money, is yours. If you withdraw from the program without going to Israel, all that money, plus interest, is refunded to you. The Congregation and Federation contributions are not.
  8. My child’s not in the Congregation’s Jewish school. Is he or she still eligible?
    No. The Federation insists that the child be enrolled in Jewish school.
  9. What if we move away?
    The account still exists. If you stay in the Bay Area, another Congregation will replace our contribution. If you leave the area, another Gift of Israel program may be available. If not, the funds accumulated are still yours, the matching funds are still available for your child’s trip to Israel, and you can still make donations to it.
  10. When can we start?
    Sign-up information will go out to each Penina Maier Jewish School student shortly. The deadline for this year’s contribution is May 31. Installments are accepted, but must be completed by May 31.

Questions? Call Davo Knepler or visit the Jewish Community Federation.