By Stephanie Smartschan
JFLV Director of Marketing
Lisa and Moshe Markowitz know they want their two daughters to have an immersive experience in Israel while they’re in high school. They also know such trips – through Jewish overnight camps, BBYO or a vast array of other organizations – can be expensive.
So a couple of years ago, they made what they consider a wise choice – they opened VISIT Israel savings accounts for their girls through the Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley.
“Moshe and I talked about it and it’s really important to us that our kids have a very deep connection to Israel and there are a lot of good programs that are advertised that you can use the funds for,” Lisa said. “So we decided it was the right time to sign them up.”
Each year, the Markowitzes contribute $300 into each girl’s account. The Federation then matches those contributions, adding $200 to each account, for up to eight years. The funds may be used from the summer after 9th grade until the girls are 25 years old.
“We receive monthly statements that show our contributions and any interest that has been deposited to the accounts,” Lisa said. “We’re just watching the funds grow and are excited that we’ll be able to defray some of the cost of these trips for our girls with the matching funds from the Federation.”
“I know that $300 can be a lot for a family,” Lisa added, “but when you think about the matching funds from the Federation, it would be unwise not to take this opportunity for your kids if you have that plan for the future to send them on such a program.”
VISIT Israel Committee Co-Chair Chelsea Karp said she is surprised the program seems to be the Lehigh Valley’s best-kept secret. Especially because there’s no risk involved.
“I haven’t heard of this program in any other place I’ve lived,” said Karp, noting how dedicated the Lehigh Valley Jewish community seems to be to education and connecting with Israel.
“If you put the money in ahead of time and then later decide it might not work out, you just get your money back, that’s the best part,” Karp added. “You don’t lose anything by starting the program.”
There are over 75 approved Israel programs to choose from – recognized by national, local or regional Jewish organizations – and the Federation works with families to make sure the right opportunities can be found. The VISIT program is designed to fund Israel programs that emphasize Jewish learning or living experiences for a period of at least four weeks.
To learn more about signing your children or grandchildren up for a VISIT Israel savings account, go to www.jewishlehighvalley.org/visit or contact Abby Trachtman at 610-821-5500 or firstname.lastname@example.org.