I have always known I was Jewish, and culturally that has always been very important to me. My Grandmother and Grandfather are both Holocaust survivors coming out of Auschwitz. Keeping the family heritage is something I always knew I wanted. However growing up and going to Synagogue was very difficult for me. I was not like the rest of kids because I have an Irish Catholic last name, my father converted but to my Temple that didn’t matter, I was an outcast. It’s a terrible thing, Jews against Jews, but that’s how it was. So as soon as my Bat Mitzvah was over I left my Synagogue never to return. I faced many hardships being Jewish growing up and I was very scared to tell people that I was a Jew knowing there was so much prejudice so I didn’t tell many people. It wasn’t until i got to college that I felt truly comfortable opening up about being Jewish. I felt very secure in the small Jewish community on campus, but I was still confused as to what my Jewish identity was, until I went on Birthright, it truly changed my life.
Just being in the land of Zion and breathing in Israels air I felt rejuvenated. I had many profound moments but there was one that embodies my whole experience. We were in the dessert, I had never seen so many stars, and one of our guides Itzik Yarkoni (who will forever be a dear friend) told us to look out at the dessert and see where our ancestors walked, see how far we have all come. I walked a little ways by myself and found a slightly raised bit of land. I stood on it and looked up at the sky and began to cry. I suddenly felt whole again, I knew in my heart that I was brought to this world to pass on the lineage of my family to my kids, and teach them where we came from. I didn’t feel alone anymore. I loved every moment of Israel the people I met, the places we went, the food we ate. Israel is like no other place in the world, it’s almost like we can feel God in every breath we take. Someday I will go back, hopefully with my family (when I’m married with kids) and I hope they will cherish the memories as I will. Thank you for an incredible experience! Everyone should go to Israel!!