CJ History


Some confusion has arisen regarding Covenant Journey's Student Tour Ministry and Passages. The origin of this confusion is rooted in the fact that Passages used the written language and mission of Covenant Journey to describe its program. The following is designed to help clarify the differences by comparing Covenant Journey and Passages.

Covenant Journey's Student Tour Ministry Origin: The development of Covenant Journey began in February 2011.  In June 2011, a series of meetings were held in Israel with many government officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to discuss their vision of bringing Christian young people to Israel to strengthen their Christian faith and equip them to be goodwill ambassadors for Israel. In September 2011, the template tour for Covenant Journey was initiated. The tour for non-students, who fully paid for the trip, combined both the biblical and historical sites along with modern Israel. In May 2012, the tour template continued to be developed, while adding students who paid the full cost of the trip. The same year, student internship opportunities in Israel were implemented. In 2014, the first Covenant Journey experience was launched for Christian college-age students with leadership potential. Except for a deposit required from accepted students, the entire cost of the 10-day experience is funded by private donations.

Passages Origin: Passages began in 2016 using virtually identical language that was developed and written by and for Covenant Journey.

Who is behind Passages? The Museum of the Bible (Steve Green of Hobby Lobby) and The Philos Project/Paul Singer have partnered to create Passages. Paul Singer is a Jewish billionaire hedge fund manager and founder of Elliott Management. He funds many nonprofit organizations.

Why do Covenant Journey and Passages sound similar? Cary Summers, the then-president of the Museum of the Bible, and Steve Green, the president of Hobby Lobby and chairman of the Museum of the Bible, wanted a partnership with a Jewish philanthropist to develop support for the Museum of the Bible. They met with Paul Singer in New York to discuss the Museum of the Bible, but he was not interested. However, when Cary Summers and Steve Green proposed a joint funding partnership of Covenant Journey, Singer became interested. Except for the Museum of the Bible and Steve Green, Paul Singer did not want other major funders involved. His representatives also wanted governing board control of Covenant Journey and control of the program’s content. When Covenant Journey refused to accept funding from Paul Singer in exchange for control of the organization, Steve Green and Cary Summers then created Passages in 2016 as a joint funding partnership with Paul Singer and used the language and concepts already developed and written by and for Covenant Journey.

What is the difference between Covenant Journey and Passages? On the surface, they both sound similar – Christian college students who are leaders are provided a life-changing experience in Israel. But, the mission and substance are not the same. While Passages uses the language developed by and for Covenant Journey, the respective programs are very different. The emphasis of Covenant Journey is to provide a spiritually transformative experience. The primary mission is to strengthen the students’ Christian faith. To that end, Covenant Journey takes great care to ensure each group has the best spiritual leaders and mentors who are trained and have a passion to work with young people. Each group also has at least one or more Covenant Journey alumni who exemplifies spiritual maturity and peer-to-peer leadership. Covenant Journey also carefully selects the best worship leaders from among the group of students or brings a worship leader from a prior group in order to provide powerful praise and worship throughout the experience. Covenant Journey is also highly selective of the Israeli tour guide to provide the best possible experience for the students. Covenant Journey places strong emphasis on spiritual transformation because of the belief that when the relationship with Jesus is strengthened and the love for the Word of God is ignited, everything else falls in place. The first and primary mission is to strengthen the students’ Christian faith. The second flows from the first – to inspire a love for Israel and equip them to be goodwill ambassadors for Israel. The latter grows out of the former, but if we only accomplished the latter, we would consider our mission and purpose a failure. The students who participate in Covenant Journey develop a love and passion for Israel and the Jewish people and are able to advocate for Israel upon their return. Following the experience in Israel, Covenant Journey continues to work directly with students  to mentor them and to provide networking opportunities and internships in Israel and the United States.

While Passages uses similar language borrowed from Covenant Journey, the mission is much less spiritual, and, regarding Israel, some students report conflicting and confusing messages from speakers. “Going to Israel has complicated my narrative and given me more questions than answers,” a Passages student declared. After returning from a Passages trip, this student admitted being confused. Other students have reported similar confusion. One person who spoke to a Passages group was Dr. Mustafa Abu Sway, a professor at Al-Quds University in “Jerusalem, Palestine.” Abu Sway raises funds for the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. Abu Sway was the president of the Islamic Society of Boston from 1990-1992, which has been associated with a number of suspected terrorists, including the Boston Bombers. According to Middle East expert Dr. Daniel Pipes, Abu Sway is a known activist for the terrorist group Hamas. Hamas publishes articles by Abu Sway on its website.

Covenant Journey leadership personally reviews and screens every applicant. The review process begins with an online application that solicits a variety of information, including school, major, GPA, graduation date, a personal statement that addresses Christian faith and Israel, leadership, and three written references. The review process also includes electronic, social media, personal communication, and a group telephone conference call.  Students selected for each group represent a wide range of colleges and universities, careers, talent, and leadership. Covenant Journey believes it is important to have the right quality and dynamic of students in each group because they live life together during an intensive, immersive experience in Israel. The Covenant Journey students are high caliber with leadership potential, and many become lifelong friends. Passages prefers large numbers of students from colleges and universities, generally deferring the selection process to someone at the college. Each tour guide selected for Covenant Journey has first been personally approved and examined by the Covenant Journey leadership. The tour guide must be very knowledgeable of the Bible, Israel, geo-politics, and must be able to communicate well with young people. Passages does not require the same level of selection criteria for its tour guides. Guides on a Passages tour are more likely not familiar with Christian groups or Christian millennials. Covenant Journey uses Sar-El as the ground tour operator in Israel. Sar-El is the largest ground tour operator for Christian tours and represents some of the best known Christian leaders and ministries. Passages uses Authentic Israel as the ground tour operator in Israel. Authentic Israel is the largest tour operator for Birthright, a tour program for Jewish young people.