In this week’s edition of What Alumni Are Saying we’re hearing from participants from New Jersey. Since Birthright Israel’s inception, 72,305 young Jewish adults from New Jersey have received this life-changing gift.…
Then & Now: Daniel SamoohiFebruary 28, 2019 at 9:03 am
Dear Mr. Bronfman,
Hope all is well. I’d like to begin by saying thank you for making the Birthright Israel trip possible for me and the thousands of others that took part in this experience. For me, it was an experience that can never be relived again. I can’t imagine the time, thought and effort that was put into this trip. I thank you with all my heart because if it wasn’t for your generosity, my peers and I wouldn’t have been able to experience the mystique and history of Israel in quite the same way. I can truly say that an intangible feeling for Israel was born in me on this trip.
Thanks to you I was able to visit the Kotel 7 years after my grandfather, who had lived in Israel for decades, passed away. The feeling as we neared the Kotel gave me goosebumps and chills. As I prayed on the Kotel, I could feel my grandfather communicating with me and it’s a feeling I will never forget. I was also able to see and spend time with my family in Israel after the guided trip was over and for this, I’m also very thankful.
I can never repay you for the moments/feelings that I experienced within myself and with the group. I feel like I can speak for the thousands who partook in this learning adventure that the entire experience was surreal. Although my life and routines have remained largely the same after returning from Israel, I can truly say that what I learned about my heritage on this trip has made me even prouder to call myself a Jew and has strengthened my Jewish identity.
Although I know this trip must have cost in the millions to facilitate the accommodations for 3000 young Jews, I believe the connections that were made, the experiences that were had, and the appreciation for the Jewish heritage that was sparked is undeniably priceless. Every Jew should be able to return to their home and learn about the history and sacrifices that were made to carry our traditions from thousands of years ago to this day.
I’ll make it back there again someday, hopefully with my own family and when I do, I’ll always remember what your generosity sparked in me, which is the relentless need to go back to my true home and where I feel at peace. I can go on forever but I’m sure you have many more letters to read so I’ll sign off by saying that you have helped me see where I stand on this earth and in my heart, and I’m proud to say it is Israel. Thank you again.
Dear Birthright Israel Foundation,
It’s almost been 20 years since our group trip to Israel in January of 2000 and I can remember almost every experience I had there as if it were yesterday. That’s how deeply engrained it is in me. The people, the places, and the feelings are something I will never forget. Because of this trip, I can call Israel my true home and it will remain in my heart forever. Learning about my heritage in a group setting was a unique experience because we all got to learn and share our history with other Jews from all walks of life. Looking back, the experience was surreal and one that I don’t think can ever be replicated. The amount of effort, time and preparation it took to arrange a trip like that for 3,000 Jews from across the United States was mind-blowing to me back then and is still remarkable to me as I think about it almost 20 years later. I imagine that the other 2,999 students that were selected for this trip have all benefitted from this experience in one way or another and that it has perpetuated Judaism and a love and appreciation for Israel that wasn’t there as much prior to our trip.
As I think about how this trip has affected me from then up until this day, I can truly say that it has shaped my life for the better. I’m now married to a selfless and beautiful Jewish woman who is also very much with me in maintaining our Jewish identity and traditions. Whether it’s with our immediate families, friends or in our own home, Shabbat dinner every Friday night is a must. It’s also great to have someone to appreciate and observe the High Holidays with. Although we’re not the most religious people, the sense of family and Jewish tradition is something we will never leave behind. In approximately 5 months, we’ll hopefully have the honor and joy of passing down our traditions to own daughter. So much has changed in my life since my trip to Israel and I know my life wouldn’t have taken the same path had I not been able to participate in the Birthright experience. I believe that if possible, every Jew should be able to see their home land at least once in their life and if they can do it with other Jews who are experiencing it for the first time, then it makes it that much more of a meaningful experience.
I don’t think words can ever truly express what I felt or how exactly Birthright has affected my life, but what I can say is that it was an extremely positive and educational experience that I will never forget.
Have you ever wondered what the early years of Birthright Israel were like? Are you curious about those who were originally selected to take part in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity? Our ‘Then & Now’ series dives into the lives of alumni from the very first Birthright Israel trips, taking you on a magical journey from the early 2000’s to today. Blog Home