Birthright with Rutgers Hillel: Going Home Again
By Susan Teplinsky, Class of 2016, Fair Lawn, NJ
A couple months ago, I received an email stating that students who had previously travelled to Israel on an organized tour were finally eligible to return to Israel on Birthright. So naturally, the first thing I did was Instagram a picture of me standing atop a tank with an “in honor of birthright changing their eligibility rules” caption. Only after I had Instagrammed did I begin the initial application process. I could not contain my excitement!
In 2011, I had the opportunity to spend four weeks with 41 other teenagers touring the cities of Israel, enjoying the culture, making unforgettable friends, complaining about the hikes and getting four hours of sleep a night. Three years later, I am counting down the days until I can do that all over again. When we were getting off the plane, several students bent down and kissed the ground. I was confused but didn’t think twice about it. It wasn’t until a month later when we were going home that I had finally realized why my peers had kissed the ground just a couple weeks ago. Israel was their home even though they had never lived there. Upon our departure, I said goodbye to home for the first time in my life and I cannot wait until we meet again.
Every night for four weeks, I wrote down what we did each day. I wrote about everything from what I ate to what I wore, from what we talked about to how I felt about it and I cannot wait to do that again, 3 years later, 3 years older and 3 years wiser. Since my initial travel to Israel, I have learned a tremendous amount about myself as a Russian Jewish teenager. To be completely honest, I’m not totally sure what to expect from this trip. But I’m excited to tour Israel with different people, in a different setting and continue learning more about myself. Identifying with Judaism means different things to different people. For some, it’s about keeping kosher and prayer but for others it’s about celebrating a community of people that share the same values and beliefs and strengthen one another.
More than anything else, I’m looking forward to spending Shabbat in Israel. Shabbat is a time to take a step back from the week, reflect upon what you’ve accomplished in the past couple days and get ready for another fulfilling week. There is something about the serenity of Israel that makes this experience unattainable anywhere else.
Susan’s amazing opportunity to go home again is coming up soon! She’ll be on the Taglit-Birthright Israel: Hillel – Rutgers University Trip from May 19 to May 30, 2014.
Through the Rutgers Hillel Center for Israel Engagement, students strengthen their connections to Israel and the Jewish people. After they return from a transformational Birthright experience, students continue to explore their love for Israel. The Rutgers Hillel Center for Israel Engagement exposes students to positive messages about Israel to help them develop stronger Jewish connections to our homeland.
Please support Rutgers Hillel as we create the next generation of Jewish leaders and change the conversation about Israel on campus.
Want to experience Israel for yourself? Registration for the next Taglit-Birthright Israel: Hillel – Rutgers University Trip (over winter break 2014-2015) opens on September 9, 2014 at 10 am ET. Previous applicants can begin registering on September 8, 2014 at 12 pm ET. To register, visit www.freeisraeltrip.org and list your school as “Rutgers” on the application.