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Miami Birthright Israel Participant Reflects On “Mind Blowing” Experience

The Greater Miami Jewish Federation partnered with Taglit-Birthright Israel to provide an exclusive Miami community Birthright experience for young adults ages 22 to 26 from Sunday, June 2, 2013 to Thursday, June 13, 2013. Below is a participant's account of their journey through Israel.

It’s been a full weekend after returning from my Birthright experience and I feel like I still haven’t processed the amazing things that we did and saw in Israel. The best way I can describe my experience is mind blowing. I knew I was going to enjoy the activities that were listed on our trip itinerary, but that is all I knew. I am so grateful to have had such a life-changing experience because of this trip.

I am not an actively religious person. I was raised in a community where all of my peers were Catholic and I got made fun of for being Jewish. This was hurtful to me as an adolescent, even though I knew they were wrong. I didn't have a single Jewish friend and I dropped out of Hebrew school in 7th grade.

The celebration of most holidays phased out for me after the passing of my Jewish grandmother and I felt like my religion was not working out for me. I felt bad about it, but did not know what to do. When people asked me if I was Jewish, I would give them vague answers like "Well my Dad's side is..." or "I'm not really religious." After my Birthright trip and meeting so many young Jewish people who are like me, I will now be proud to say "Yes, I am Jewish!"

This is a monumental change to say the least. It was so special for me to be around so many amazing Jewish people. The customs and words of the Jewish culture that I had known as a child started to flood back into my memory, and I am now looking forward to relearning them. What we learned in Israel makes me proud of how strong the Jewish people are, and proud of the State of Israel and the role that the American Jewish community plays in maintaining its strength. I would love to go back to Israel in the future. There were so many beautiful and incredible places to see. I feel so, so grateful to have been able to go on this trip. After everything that I learned and experienced, I feel blessed to have been born into such a rich religion and culture.

Taglit-Birthright Israel provides the gift of free, first-time, peer-group, educational trips to Israel for Jewish young adults. Taglit-Birthright Israel’s founders created this program to send thousands of young Jewish adults from all over the world to Israel as a gift in order to diminish the growing division between Israel and Jewish communities around the world; to strengthen the sense of solidarity among world Jewry; and to strengthen participants’ personal Jewish identity and connection to the Jewish people. With funding from the Federation, more than 3,000 people from Miami and the surrounding area have taken part in Taglit-Birthright Israel since it launched more than a decade ago.

Registration for the winter 2013 Birthright trip opens in mid-September. For more information, please email or call 305.576.4000.

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Jewish life and advance the unity, values and shared purpose of the Jewish people in Miami, in Israel and around the world.

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