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Birthright Israel Gave Me the Confidence to Explore My Judaism

December 18, 2019 at 8:36 am
by Rachel Abramov • Hewlett, NY 2019 Birthright Israel Alumna

I was raised in a Jewish family that was more traditional in our practice of Judaism. Only when I turned 12, I felt a spark and became more interested in Jewish learning and the religious aspects I had been missing. Eager to explore Israel as I learned more about Judaism, I set out for my Birthright Israel trip right after my first year of college together with several of my cousins and friends.

“To the generous supporters of Birthright Israel, I want to say thank you very much for allowing me to claim this gift. You made it possible for me to explore my Judaism while I was surrounded by a community of friends and family.”

I’ll never forgot my first visit to the Kotel on Shabbat. As the light settled into dusk, we entered the Old City as a group and lit Shabbat candles. Together we strolled to the plaza in front of the Kotel, awestruck by what was in front of us: circles and circles of people dancing and singing joyously. My breath was taken away as I witnessed all these people together with every single face in the crowd experiencing pure joy. I danced together with friends from the group and took in the elation of the whole experience. To reach the Kotel itself, several friends and I had to dig through waves and waves of people. As we got closer, we felt the powerful energy emanating from the wall. I reached the Kotel with my friends by my side.

Returning to the plaza area together, a friend I’ve known since we were two years old turned to me with tears streaming down her face, ‘That was so incredibly powerful; I felt something indescribable that I’ve never felt before. I want to keep my first Shabbat and I want you to help me.’ I hugged her as I was now crying and told her that we were on this journey together.

As our group slowly left the plaza area and walked to dinner, we had countless conversations with other group members about how connected we felt, and how they too were open to exploring Judaism more than ever before. Everyone was there for one another as we processed this deep experience together. After I returned home, I felt a newfound sense of confidence to approach rabbis about learning more about Judaism and my own practice. I have since delved much more deeply into learning and know this will always be an essential part of my life. At school, whenever I’m not at class, you’ll find me at Hillel hanging out or playing a part of one of the events. I am proud to serve on the Hillel Executive Board and to be involved as much as possible.

To the generous supporters of Birthright Israel, I want to say thank you very much for allowing me to claim this gift. You made it possible for me to explore my Judaism while I was surrounded by a community of friends and family. Not only have I grown from this experience, but I have been rewarded by helping others explore and find meaning in their Judaism. Thank you!

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