Birthright with Rutgers Hillel: One of the Best Things I Ever Did!
By Daniele Finkel ‘15
I am currently a junior at Rutgers, and this past winter I had the most amazing opportunity to go on Birthright with Rutgers Hillel. It was literally one of the best times of my life.
In the beginning, I had my doubts. I did not know anyone going in, and I was nervous about spending ten days across the world with people I had never met. At the orientations they tell you these people will become your family, and it’s hard to believe that when you are sitting there for an hour playing ice breakers, but of course everything they say is true. I was nervous for no reason.
The first day we spent together I was already comfortable. We were all here for one thing, to experience Israel, most for the first time. It did not matter where we were from, who we were friends with in school, how religious we were, or how old we were; we were all the same. Everything we did, we did together. Everything we experienced, we experienced together. When one person needed the other to lean on, there was always someone there.
The things we did were unbelievable. We hiked up and down mountains, slept in a Bedouin tent, and did so many other incredible things that one would not be able to do if not on Birthright. One thing that I will always remember is when our ‘tour educator’ Jeremy Aron said, “Birthright is a 10 day trip that a normal family would complete in three weeks.” Jeremy was probably the best tour guide we could have ever gotten and I really believe that he made the trip what it was. He was like a walking British Israeli encyclopedia, and he always had something to say and comment on wherever we were.
Another great part of the trip was when the Israeli soldiers joined our group. When the soldiers arrived, they almost immediately became a part of our group, as if they had been there from the beginning. Saying goodbye to them was one of the hardest things we did on the trip. It was like saying goodbye to a family member who you’re unsure when you’ll see them again. But of course, when they left we all had each other to lean on. After a few hours, our group was back to normal, just short a couple of people.
Andrew Getraer and Avia Prins, the Rutgers Hillel staff traveling with us, were also incredible. I did not think I would become as close with them as I was. Having them there added to the trip tremendously.
I am so thankful I got to go on Birthright with Rutgers Hillel. I think that this trip has made me a stronger person, for which I am so grateful. To anyone who doubts whether to go on Birthright, push through it and sign up. It will be one of the best things you will ever do.
Registration for the Taglit-Birthright Israel: Hillel – Rutgers University Trip (leaving May 19, 2014) opens on Wednesday, February 19, 2014 at 10 am ET. Previous applicants can begin registering on Tuesday, February 18, 2014 at 12 pm ET. To register, visit www.freeisraeltrip.org and use the referral code “Rutgers”.
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.