Two groups of teenagers were at John F. Kennedy Airport Tuesday preparing to board a flight to Israel on a BBYO-organized tour when the organization decided at the last moment to delay the trips because of the rocket attacks on Israel from the Gaza Strip, The Jewish Week has learned.
Carly Lundy Schacknies, BBYO’s marketing and communications manager, confirmed the postponement of the two trips — a 21-day tour and a 28-day tour — for youngsters in the ninth through 12th grades.
“We worked with them and their families to provide overnight accommodations at hotels,” Schacknies said. “They were all chaperoned and supervised. They now have the option of choosing another trip domestically or in Europe. We provide trips to 15 countries around the world, so there are other options for them to provide a meaningful experience even if they can’t unfortunately be in Israel.”
She said BBYO has other groups of teens already in Israel and that the organization’s “overriding primary concern is the safety, security and comfort of our teens and their parents. We are working closely with Israeli security on the ground to help plot our itinerary and ensure that it is as nimble as possible. At this time, their itinerary is relatively uninterrupted.”
On its BBYOPassbook Facebook page, the group wrote: “During this difficult period, our groups are staying together and united. Their ongoing safety remains our over-riding concern. If you are the parent of a teen in Israel now, update messages were sent earlier this evening and additional updates will follow.”
Schacknies noted that BBYO would be “working with our families to figure out the financial considerations” as a result of the changes.”
Meanwhile, Taglit-Birthright Israel posted a notice on its website Wednesday that said the organization was “monitoring closely the situation” and that “the safety and well-being of participants [in Israel] is our ‘primary’ concern.”
“At this point, none of the current 3,500-plus participants in Israel have left trips earlier than planned,” it said. “Monitoring closely the situation, we constantly implement the most stringent and comprehensive security measures, far exceeding that of the Israel Security Authority guidelines. We have a well-deserved reputation for being cautious and conservative, a reputation that we have earned in the 14 years of our program and take [it] extremely seriously. No effort or expense is spared as it relates to the security of our participants.”
It added that all Birthright participants have been asked to call home within the next 24 hours.