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Jerusalem tourism pic from Israel Ministry of Tourism.

The Gift of Israel (GOI) program enables Jewish students from Southern Maine to have an Israel experience as a meaningful part of the Jewish education. The Gift of Israel program is a unique partnership among families, temples and synagogues, and the Jewish Community Alliance of Southern Maine (JCA). It is an effort to assist families in contributing funds toward an educational program in Israel for participating students, and is promoted by local congregations.  

GIFT OF ISRAEL FAQs

Q:   Who are the contributing partners? 

A:   Once families are signed on with the Gift of Israel program, and make their minimum annual contribution of $150, the JCA will contribute $150 per student, per year until the child enters the 10th grade. (The families must contribute their minimum contribution of $150). The maximum amount a student can receive from the JCA, if s/he participates in the program for the full length of time, grades 1 – 10, is $1500.

The family is a second partner in the Gift of Israel program. A family’s annual contribution must be at least $150, placed into a special savings account, opened at Signature Bank, through an arrangement with the national Gift of Israel program. Each participant will have his/her own account.
      
Local synagogues will be promoting the Gift of Israel program in their congregations. Participating synagogues will make contributions of $50 per year, per participant. Current participating synagogues are Temple Beth El, Congregation Etz Chaim and Congregation Bet Ha'am.
 
Q:   Who is eligible?
 
A:   The Gift of Israel program is open to:
             – Jewish students entering first grade who are enrolled and in good standing in
                religious school or an equivalent program approved by a Rabbi.
             – In addition, the student and his/her family are members in good standing of 
                their respective congregation and are donors to the JCA.
 
Q:   Who coordinates this program nationally and locally?
 
A:   The Gift of Israel is a program organized by Israel Experience, Inc. which coordinates Gift of Israel programs in over 45 communities in the United States. Locally, the Gift of Israel is organized through the JCA which works with synagogues and individual families.
 
Q:   How can I register my child?
 
A:   Families may register for the program by contacting the JCA office to receive a Participation Agreement and returning it to the JCA. Registration for new families will be every year by March 1. After registering through the JCA, families will be provided with the appropriate paperwork to open an account with Signature Bank. Family contributions will remain the property of the family.
 
Q:   What happens if we move?
 
A:   If a southern Maine participant moves to another Gift of Israel community where the program may have a different name or slightly different guidelines, the student may be able to transfer to that program. If the new community does not have a similar program, the family can continue to deposit family funds to the student’s account at Signature Bank. In either event, if the family maintains the account until the child goes to Israel, the monies accumulated by the JCA and synagogue prior to the move will remain in the account. The JCA and synagogue funds will no longer be added once the family moves from southern Maine.
 
Q:   What if we wish to exit the program?
 
A:   A student may withdraw from the program at any time upon sixty days notice to the JCA. The removal of funds from the family account, other than for the use toward an approved Israel program, will constitute withdrawal from the program. Upon withdrawal, a student forfeits all rights to JCA and other synagogue donated funds. Funds donated by the family will be returned within 60 days of withdrawal.
 
Q:   What if the account becomes inactive?
 
A:   If a family does not meet enrollment requirements or exits the program, the JCA and synagogue contributions will no longer be made. If the student does not participate in an Israel program by the  summer of their 23rd year, the JCA and congregational contributions will be forfeited.
 
Q:   How are funds transferred to the program?
 
A:   After a student has reached high school (grade 9), funds may be applied toward an approved Israel program. These funds must be used no later than the summer after his/her 23rd birthday. If not used by that time, the family’s contribution will be returned. A student will only receive community funds upon proof of intended participation in an approved Israel trip. Families must make a written request to the JCA’s Gift of Israel program at least sixty days prior to the date on which payment is due to the approved Israel program. The JCA will ask Signature Bank to disburse the funds into the main JCA account and a check will be written to the participant’s family. The JCA and the synagogue will disburse their funds directly to the participant’s family. The amount of the funds which will be distributed cannot exceed the actual cost of the program.
 
Q:   What constitutes an approved Israel program?
 
A:   An approved Israel program must be:
      Ÿ Educational in nature
      Ÿ Staffed by qualified personnel
      Ÿ At least two weeks in length, structured with a predetermined itinerary
      Ÿ For a peer group of young people
      Ÿ Organized by a non-profit organization, educational institution, or religious institution

HOW TO ENROLL

ENROLLMENT CHECKLIST
 1.  Request a GOI participation agreement from the JCA.
 
 2. Complete and sign the form and return to:
     Terry Olsen
     Jewish Community Alliance
     57 Ashmont Street
     Portland, ME  04103
 
Once the JCA notifies your synagogue of your enrollment and processes your enrollment form, the materials to open a Signature Bank account will be sent to you.
 
Parental contributions must be received by February 15 each calendar year.

    Israel Travel Opportunities

    The JCA has compiled a list of Israel travel opportunities. Please click the link below:

    ISRAEL TRAVEL OPPORTUNITIES

    The JCA does not endorse a particular tour company or trip. It is each family's responsibility to throughly research potential trips to make sure they are the right fit for their child. The JCA bears no responsibility for any issues arising from a trip.