January 2000 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…
Then & Now: KC YasmerAugust 13, 2019 at 8:00 am
My name is KC Yasmer and I am a junior at Stanford University. It was my good fortune to join the other hundreds of college students on the Birthright Israel 2000 trip.
I was raised in Tucson, Arizona, a southwestern town with a small but cohesive Jewish community. Judaism was and is a part of my life, which included the Holidays and leading to my Bar Mitzvah and Confirmation. My Jewishness, however, never had a connection to Israel. That all changed on June 12th, 2000. I left the United States with NO preconceived notions or expectations of what Israel was going to do to me. I suppose you can forever count on one hand the life experiences one might have. Certainly, my most recent was when my father suddenly and unexpectedly died in December 1998. He never made it to Israel, but he was with me on this trip. I believe that this trip was one of those life-changing experiences. Not just for me, but for the thousands of youths you so generously allowed to take in this incredible place. After returning to Tucson, the picture became clear to me. I still don’t know what I will be in my life, but I do know what I am.
I can never thank you enough for making this opportunity possible for all of us. I feel we all had a little inner light that was turned on inside. You gave us the greatest gift one can receive- ourselves. Now I truly understand that it was my Birthright to go to the land of Israel.
Dear Birthright Israel Foundation,
My trip to Israel with Birthright is still one of the fondest and most impactful memories of my life. I had never been to Israel but the trip, the people and the places we visited solidified my Jewish identity in ways that are difficult to explain. I was not very religious and considered myself a “cultural”, more secular Jew – so I didn’t have high expectations for how Birthright would change my relationship to Judaism. I always had a strong connection to my Jewish history, tradition and responsibility to previous generations, but I didn’t quite know why I needed to have this connection. When I traveled to Israel for the first time on Birthright, it all made sense. I had never experienced being somewhere that I had never been before yet feeling like I was immediately at home. And to go through this experience with my Jewish friends (and new friends) allowed me to see that I wasn’t the only one experiencing this feeling. I didn’t want to leave. I’ve been back to Israel once since that trip, and the moment I landed the second time, I felt the same way I had 15 years prior when I visited with Birthright. It wasn’t that I wasn’t proud of being Jewish before my trip, but I left Israel feeling even more proud than I was before. It’s one thing to talk about our Jewish identity, our history, tradition and heritage – and it’s another thing to be in Israel with your friends experiencing that history and tradition in person. All I can say is it’s remarkable.
I am a huge advocate for every Jewish young man and woman to attend Birthright Israel. The trip is well-thought-out, organized and planned so that you truly make the most of your time in Israel to feel its true impact. I think one of the best aspects about the trip is that Birthright merely sets the table for you to have your own personal experience with Israel and Judaism. You will experience it YOUR way and Birthright Israel allows and encourages it to happen that way. The trip, the people and the place speak for themselves and Birthright ties up the opportunity for you. My life would be very different if I hadn’t attended Birthright Israel, but I am so happy I did because it opened up a part of my identity that I didn’t know existed.
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