Melitz’s Step by Step Manual for Group Leaders
Congratulations! You have made the decision to bring your community to Israel. This is an exciting opportunity for your kehilla. Not only does an Israel trip strengthen the connection between your congregation and Israel, it also brings the participants together in an intense experience that deepens their connection to the community, the Rabbi/trip leader and one another.
Your first step is to ensure that you have the support of your lay and professional leadership. The more people you bring on board at this early stage, the easier it will be for you down the line to create a buzz and promote the trip.
What Kind of Trip Do You Want?
Melitz offers educationally driven Israel trips for all kinds of communities. Melitz trips offer several advantages:
- Each trip is custom designed by you and a Melitz educator with your group in mind. Melitz is an apolitical pluralist organization whose agenda is to help people strengthen their Jewish identity and their connection to Israel through informal Jewish and Israel education.
- Programs are designed by experienced Jewish educators, not tour sales agents, who work to actualize your vision.
Done the Melitz way Israel travel becomes a Jewishly transformative experience.
Spend a few moments thinking about what kind of trip you want to create. What is your vision? What things do you hope people take away from their experience?
Who is the trip for?
Adults – Families – Professionals – Lay Leaders? A Bar/Bat Mitzvah trip? What ages are your participants? Have they been to Israel before?
What special themes are you interested in? Are there any places that must
be on your itinerary? Do you want your congregants to meet with or have home hospitality with members of a congregation in Israel? Do you have a partnership community in Israel that you would like to visit? Are there any special activities that you want to include e.g. Archeological Dig, rafting, volunteering, home hospitality?
Although there is always so much you want to fit in, we at Melitz respect the old adage “less is more”. As educators, we know that people have a saturation point, and it is important not to over-program. Allow your group some down time.
When will the trip be? How long will it be?
Ten days to two weeks is probably ideal for a standard community trip but bear in mind you lose two days in your traveling. Summer is a great time to visit Israel and the weather will certainly be warm, but it can also be a more expensive time and hotel and flight availability is more difficult to secure. Some groups prefer to travel in the winter when it isn’t so hot but it may also be rainy. But remember, days are also shorter in the winter. Don’t forget to consider school holidays and camp dates as well as Jewish and American national holidays.
At this early stage you may want to settle on a general time of year and set final dates after you have consulted with potential participants
Some logistical considerations
- What standard of hotel do you wish to stay in?
- How many free places will you want for trip leaders, staff or family members?
- From where will your group be traveling? Do you have a preference as to the airline?
- Is your most important priority prices, or flight times, or airport?
- How many meals do you want to include? We suggest an average of one meal a day in addition to breakfast.
Working with your Melitz educator
Now you need to begin to work with the Melitz educator to discuss the kind of trip you wish to create. Although you can always communicate your vision via e-mail, there is no substitute for an initial face-to-face meeting or conference call with our Israel based educational staff.
Melitz will provide…
Within a few days of your initial conversation
- A draft outline itinerary for your consideration. The Melitz itinerary will be built according to educational themes based on your community and your goals. All elements of the itinerary can be changed as much as is necessary to ensure that the program actualizes your vision. We will revise the itinerary until you are 100% satisfied.
Around a week to ten days after initial itinerary is approved
- A comprehensive price quotation based on the proposed itinerary including a range of prices based on different numbers of participants
- A contract and request for a deposit in order to secure Melitz services
After you have signed a contract with Melitz
- A fuller narrative itinerary that includes any changes you may wish to make to the original draft
- Assistance securing and booking seats on the flights of your choice (if you don’t do your own air bookings)
- Assistance with individual pre or post-trip packages
During the Participant Application Process
- Suggestions for new and additional elements you may wish to include
- Advice and suggestions for pre and post-trip programming
- In addition – subject to time of year and availability, Melitz may be able to send a staff member to speak at a recruitment meeting
While in Israel
- Full logistical responsibility for all elements of the program including accommodations, meals and site bookings
- Personalized attention in the case of special situations
- An experienced and skilled Tour Educator suited to your group’s needs, accompanying your group and on call 24 hours a day for the duration of your trip
Throughout the Process
- Expert advice from our experienced educational and travel staff.
- Professional personalized service
- Rapid responses. We aim to reply to any query within 48 hours or less (except in the case of Jewish or public holidays)
Building a Buzz
Begin to talk about the trip, even before you have finalized the details.
The most important tool you have is your enthusiasm. Once you are ready to go, start to build a buzz in your community, as much as a year in advance. This gives participants plenty of time to generate excitement and prepare for the trip both financially and logistically.
Some ideas to help build a buzz include
- Speaking about Israel travel and the forthcoming trip at every opportunity and synagogue/community function
- An address from the pulpit on the subject of Israel promoting the community trip
- Announcements in community publications and websites
- General Israel programming throughout the community. Even where this is not specifically tied to the forthcoming trip it contributes to the general positive atmosphere and enthusiasm for Israel.
- An attractive display featuring poster and photos of Israel
- A preliminary informational meeting for interested participants
- A sign in the lobby with pictures of all the people who have signed up.
Building a buzz helps you to identify a core group of participants, who can in turn work with you to recruit others. Early applicants can be given a chance to provide input into elements of the itinerary and dates for the trip.
Your itinerary is ready, you have a price and application forms. You have a core group of interested participants. Now all that remains is to promote the trip.
You can do this through
- Distributing flyers at community events and in a community wide mailing
- Send out periodic e-mails with short but exciting pieces about Israel
- Use signed up participants to target people who might be interested
- Announce the trip at the end of services and at all community events
- Hold an open meeting for interested participants, perhaps with a Melitz staff person to help promote the trip. Participants should be told that attendance at the meeting does not constitute a commitment (very important).
And, always remember that Melitz resources are here to help you with creative ideas about how to generate more enthusiasm.
How many participants is an ideal number?
Melitz itineraries can be designed to accommodate any number. A full bus constitutes around 45 participants. This is the optimum number from an economic perspective since a greater number of participants share fixed costs such as transportation and guiding. (from a practical perspective, it is a bit more pleasant to have some empty seats on the bus to create a feeling of space) From an educational perspective the ideal number is around 35 as this is the optimum size for creating a close group feeling, which enhances learning and fun.
Larger groups can of course use multiple buses and guides. This also allows us to provide more options within the program.
The minimum group size is probably around 16 including the group leader. It is possible to cater for even smaller groups but this may become financially prohibitive for you.
Another thing that separates a standard synagogue trip from a transformative community Israel experience is the pre and post-trip programming. Give some thought to what activities you may want to include.
Programming should be catered to your specific group but ideas include:
- An Israel centered adult education course run over several months to be completed 6 months in advance of the trip
- An preparatory meeting before the trip that raises educational themes that will be covered in the trip
- A series of social pre-trip meetings for all participants
- In the case of family groups a separate social meeting for the children
- Guest educator from Israel to speak to the group
- Distribution of informational material and educational readings to participants
- Assigning of projects in advance of the trip to individual participants or families such as asking them to bring an item of Jewish significance to their family, or preparing things for certain moments during the program etc.
The experience does not need to end when you return to the USA-in fact the trip is only the beginning! Your group will rely on you to help them find ways to integrate Israel and their trip into their ongoing lives. Suggestions include
- A post-trip reunion where participants can share their memories, photos, movies and other memorabilia. You can combine this with an educational speaker of interest or perhaps with a Shabbat dinner.
- Encouraging families to maintain their personal connection to Israel through subscriptions to Israeli news sources such as the Jerusalem Report, Israel websites and general reading. You may wish to provide participants with a relevant book or subscription yourself.
- Encourage your participants to lead Israel activities in the community. Freshly enthused with the Israel-buzz they are an ideal resource to help organize Israel programming, to be drafted onto the community Israel committee or head up efforts to raise funds for your favorite Israeli charity.
- Begin planning your next trip using this group as your core planners and recruiters.
Are you planing to organise an activity with Israelis? We provide you with an activity that can help you prepre your group before the encounter. Encounters activity with Israelis