RootOne is a program powered by The Jewish Education Project and seeded by the generosity of The Marcus Foundation. Each summer, RootOne helps thousands of Jewish teens travel to Israel on a journey that will shape the rest of their lives. Last summer, RootOne supported 129 Atlanta teens to experience Israel for themselves.
Lainey Weissman went on one such trip with a group of rising 11th-graders from Camp Coleman. There was a group of teenagers from Atlanta who all attended together—they began their journey at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and were able to bond before even meeting up with the others on their trip.
“We shared our experiences from all different parts of Atlanta,” she says. Having a group of people from her hometown made her feel more at ease right away. “We had a debate about which was best: Willy’s, Moe’s or Chipotle, and only the Atlanta kids knew what Willy’s was.”
RootOne trips offer a diverse range of programs to fit any interest. Whether a student is interested in sports, entrepreneurship, or social justice, they can find an Israel experience that will speak to them. But Lainey says that some of her favorite moments on the trip happened on the bus in between activities—the casual downtime “was such great bonding experience.”
Israel journeys funded by RootOne are highly educational, even before students step on the plane. Groups learn about all sides of Israeli life and culture, from the familiar to the nuanced. American travelers meet Israeli peers and make connections that will span the globe. Lainey says, “I have heard about these places for so long and seeing them in real life was such a cool experience.”
When asked what surprised her most about Israel, she says, “There are so many cats! But really, it’s how similar it is to America. Obviously, they are different cultures, but seeing some similar chain restaurants and how many people speak English was surprising. I was expecting a language barrier, but there wasn’t one.”
These inspiring and engaging journeys change the students’ perspectives on life, and on Israel. 76% of RootOne alums report learning more about themselves, and 75% think about Israel differently than before. These trips teach teenagers to be independent and confident.
“I think it’s really valuable to go when you’re young; getting away from your parents allows you to explore who you are. It was very impactful.” Lainey says this trip specifically taught her about managing money. She says she learned a lot about “How to spend one’s free time and not buy everything in sight.” A very important lesson for any world-traveler.
Visit https://rootone.org/ to learn more about RootOne and see a list of trip providers. Applications open January 1.