Birthright Travelers Bond in a Big Way
A diverse group of 39 young Jewish students and professionals returned this month from the most recent Atlanta Community Birthright Israel winter trip. To say they bonded in Israel is an understatement. After just a couple of weeks back home, they’ve already organized two reunions, and several of them volunteered at Atlanta Jewish Life Festival’s Birthright table just days after landing back in Atlanta.
How did 39 strangers become such fast friends? Like so many visitors to Israel, their ten-day journey began gloriously on the Haas Promenade, with its sweeping view of Jerusalem. There, in a drum circle led by Israeli soldiers and students who accompanied them on the trip, each traveler set an intention to explore and understand this complex land with all its Jewish resonances. They encountered Israelis as varied as the land itself — students, soldiers, religious and non-religious, Jew and Druze. They hiked up Masada to see the sun rise over the Negev and rang in the secular new year with bonfires and dancing in a Bedouin tent village. But it was their inner Jewish journeys that left the most indelible impressions. Eight of the travelers chose to read from the Torah and become bar and bat mitzvah on the trip. All of them returned committed to each other and eager to engage more deeply with Jewish Atlanta. Hear what some of them had to say about the journey.
Emily Rieders, an Atlanta young professional, reflected on all the ways the trip stirred up Jewish feelings. “Having been through multiple stages within my Judaism, from ups and downs, knowing and not knowing, this trip has allowed me to reconnect, learn and teach. The beautiful thing about Birthright is that it allows Jews from all walks of life, who are in different moments of their Jewish journey, to come together and experience the land and history we all share. I’ve learned so much about others, Israel, Judaism, and myself, and what it truly means to be a Jew.”
Alec Sard, a Georgia State University graduate, said the trip expanded his definition of global Jewish peoplehood. “This experience has taught me that a Jewish identity is not definite. It is dynamic and always changing. Through this experience, I have continued my Jewish growth and exploration with individuals from all levels of Judaism. By interacting with similarly aged Jews of all backgrounds, I was able to grow as a person and more importantly, as a Jew. During Birthright, I learned, I taught, I listened, and I explored. This has been one of the most meaningful experiences of my life.”
This summer there are two opportunities to travel on Birthright Israel with the Atlanta Community — one for ages 22-26, and one for ages 27-32. Dates are, June 30 – July 11, 2019. Registration is now open and spots are filling up fast: ages 22-26 apply here and ages 27-32 can apply here. Questions? Contact Cecelia Borgman.