Doug Ross serves as Vice Chair of Birthright Israel Foundation, a partner organization of the Jewish Youth Pledge.
How do the missions of the Pledge and Birthright Israel align?
The Pledge is an idea whose time has come. The Pledge and Birthright Israel are both trying to raise the collective consciousness of the Jewish people by bringing people together in tangible ways to powerfully impact our communities and the Jewish world, whether now (Birthright) or in the future (Pledge).
Birthright participants are more likely to marry Jewish, engage with their Jewish communities when they return home are more likely to become involved with pro-Israel causes, observe Jewish holidays, and raise their children Jewish. The Jewish Future Pledge and Birthright share the goals of strengthening Jewish identities, pride, and community engagement at a time where too many young Jews are feeling disconnected from their Judaism.
Tell us about your Jewish life and your role with Birthright Israel Foundation
I took a semester off college back in 1976 to volunteer on a kibbutz in Israel, and those seven weeks changed my life. I came home, changed my major to Political Science and wrote my senior Honors Thesis on the Arab-Israeli conflict. After graduation, I spent a year on another kibbutz, dividing my days between working and studying Hebrew. Israel and the Jewish community became central to my life. That time in Israel created much of the foundation for the rest of my life.
I became involved with the B’nai Brith, The Atlanta Jewish Federation and AIPAC and other Jewish organizations over the years, and became active with Birthright in 2012 serving as Atlanta Chair of our local Leadership Cabinet. I joined the national board of directors in 2015 and began my term as Vice Chair in 2022. This has been the honor of a lifetime for me being part of an organization which is helping to change the arc of Jewish history. I love the idea behind Birthright and the Jewish Future Pledge, as both are great tools for starting conversations on making a real impact on the current and future of the Jewish world. Now, I travel across the country and am so inspired by the feeling of helping young American Jews strengthen their Jewish identities and their connection to Israel.
What do you love about the Jewish Future Pledge?
I love that the Pledge is so easy to embrace. It is a moral and ethical commitment, not a legal or financial obligation. It gets people and their families thinking seriously about what’s important to them and the impact they would like to make. Apathy is a big threat to the Jewish people, and the Pledge is an antidote to this. We Jews care deeply about our past, as well as about the future. The Pledge taps into people’s love and respect for their parents and grandparents and their desire to carry on family legacies by asking them to consider supporting causes important to their forbearers. It is a link between our past and our future.
Why is the Jewish Future important to you?
My wife and I believe that the Jewish people have been, are, and will continue to be one of the greatest forces for good and human progress in history. For millennia, Jews have had a disproportionately positive effect and influence across multiple cultures and diverse fields of endeavor including science, medicine, business, philosophy, music, education, literature, the Arts, and the list goes on and on.
Caring deeply as we do about our people and the entire planet, we can think of no better guarantor of a bright future than committing our family to investing in Jewish and pro-Israel philanthropies.
About Doug Ross
Doug Ross is Vice Chair of the Birthright Israel Foundation, and also serves as Atlanta Chair of the Foundation. He is also on the Atlanta AIPAC Executive Council, and recently served a four-year term as Chair as well. He has two sons and one grandchild, and lives with his wife Robyn in Sandy Springs, Georgia.