Birthright with Rutgers Hillel
By Alana Taub, Class of 2018
Recently I returned from a 10 day experience that was in simple words… life-changing-ly awesome. Israelis call the Birthright experience Taglit, which is Hebrew for “discover”. This experience was not only discovery of the promised land and the people of Israel; it also provided me with the opportunity to discover a sense of self in regards to being a Jewish young adult in today’s global world. During the jam packed and adrenaline-filled days (with little sleep), we visited some historic sights, chatted with and befriended some awesome locals, and overall were able to explore (and have fun).
A Noticeable Difference?:
Honestly, going into the trip I was really nervous: I am an Asian Conservative Jew (who also attended a Catholic high school, but also knows prayers and can daven/chant moderately well). I knew going into this there was going to be a barrier of difference and that people can never have a second “first impression.” However, it was liberating to realize that the majority of the people I met on my journey were welcoming of all types of Jews. The best part was having no expectations in regards to how to act, what to think/say, who to befriend, when to talk, etc.
The Pillars of Religion:
As someone who was converted to Conservative Judaism as an infant after my adoption, I always had this expectation to feel like Judaism was chosen for me. Moreover, while attending a Catholic high school, I questioned whether or not I actually believed in Judaism. While approaching my bat mitzvah, the rabbi asked me if I was doing this willingly, and being ignorant of other religions, I said yes. But while in Israel, the expectation was lifted. Judaism and its history provide values in terms of what it means to be a good human, but belief is very personal. If the five pillars of Judaism are Family, Hebrew, Israel, Prayer and History, the extent to which they weigh are very personal and should be respected by everyone.
The People You Meet and the Friendships You Make:
Talking to my fellow participants as well as the soldiers who accompanied us on this experience, it is very clear that the people make the experience amazing. Whether it be the random dancing, singing on the bus ride, freezing in the Dead Sea together (the weather was cooler than expected) or talking on long hikes… the discussions shared and the friendships created will last beyond those ten days. I was fortunate enough to make some awesome friendships and look forward to keeping in touch with them in the future.
The Purpose of Birthright:
I guess like everything, there are multiple opinions. Some say it’s solely so Jewish young adults can discover their homeland and feel a greater sense of Judaism, while some say it’s a political move to have people gain a greater political connection and support towards Israel. Regardless, this 10 day experience was eye opening – traveling abroad is so liberating and freeing.
Overall, to anyone wondering whether Birthright is an awesome experience… yes… absolutely! If I were to give any advice it would be to have no expectations going in, and to just enjoy and appreciate the moment – to have fun! (And hopefully you can bring this philosophy and excitement over to other aspects of life as well.) To the other members of Bus 235, y’all are the best and thanks so much for making this experience so wonderful and memorable! Shalom!
Registration for the Summer 2016 Rutgers Birthright trip with Rutgers Hillel (May 19-30, 2016) is NOW OPEN! Visit www.rutgershillel.org/birthright and click the link.
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.