Finally, a trip to the Jewish Homeland with Rutgers Hillel!
By Simone Shopowich ’16
On the morning of January 5, 2014, you will find me at Newark Liberty International Airport, with my duffel bag on my shoulder, a cup of coffee in my hand, and a contagious (slightly creepy) grin on my face. This day marks what I am sure will be the beginning of one of the most inspiring and fulfilling experiences I have ever encountered during my nineteen and three-quarter years on the planet. You may ask to which experience I am referring. If you’d like to know, I will be embarking on a Birthright trip for ten days with Rutgers Hillel!
When I tell others that I have never been to Israel, they usually respond with utter shock and disbelief. Since birth I have always felt a connection to Hashem and Judaism. My earliest memories include hiding under my grandfather’s (zichrono livracha) tallis in the men’s section of Congregation Ahavas Achim in Highland Park as well as frequenting the infamous “ShabbosPark” in Edison with my best friends. Every element of my life reflects my love of Judaism, from my decision to enroll at Rutgers College of Nursing (Rutgers has one of the largest Jewish populations) to what I eat for breakfast every morning (keeping kosher prevents me from consuming a pork roll egg and cheese). When I meet new people and they see this side of me, they automatically assume that I must have been to the Jewish Homeland. I have always had a desire to visit Israel to connect on another level to my Judaism and see the historic sites first hand that I’ve only read about in text. I am in complete awe of the concept of me walking on the same soil as the famous figures from the Tanakh (Jewish Bible). I have heard many times from different people who have visited Israel that the experience transforms them in a deeply spiritual way and changes their perspective on life.
As you all can predict, I have several expectations as to what the trip will provide for me. I hope to form a stronger connection to Israel. My grandfather’s brother (zichrono livracha) lived in Israel after the Holocaust and was deeply attached to his new home. I desire to feel in a similar way after my Birthright trip. I also wish to learn as much as I can about the history and culture of Israel. But don’t worry! I am also looking forward to eating my weight in hummus and shwarma.
When I return to the States I will be more than thrilled to share my experiences in Israel with you!
Help students like Simone strengthen their connections to Israel and the Jewish people after they return from a transformational Birthright experience. Through the RutgersHillelCenter for Israel Engagement, students continue to explore their love for Israel and develop stronger Jewish connections to our homeland. Please support Rutgers Hillel as we create the next generation of Jewish leaders.