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If your grandmother says “go,” you go!

March 6, 2020 at 5:33 pm
by Guido Weiss • Wellington, FL 2008 Birthright Israel Alumnus
2008 Alumnus Guido Weiss in from of the American flag

My grandmother, who survived World War II hiding in Italy, has the mentality that nothing in this world should be taken for granted. She has a zero-waste policy – she is the type who brings the bread and butter home from a restaurant and when she heard about the gift of Birthright Israel, she insisted that I take advantage of it. For her, it seemed too good to be true – nothing in life is free.

But this trip was free. I love traveling and just last year met my life goal of visiting 30 countries before I turned 30. In 2008, I went to Israel for the first time with Birthright Israel on my grandmother’s recommendation and it changed my life in a way no other trip has.  When I left for that 10-day adventure, I didn’t know the next 12 years of my life would go down a completely different path.

While I grew up in a Jewish family in South Florida, I was not particularly connected to the Jewish community. After my trip, all I could talk about was how amazing Israel was – the culture, the food, the people, the history, the community, and the significance to all.  I quickly convinced my whole family to go to Israel to see what inspired me so much. Birthright Israel Foundation invested in just me, but my one trip led me to move to Israel, study at Hebrew University, and to at least a dozen friends and family members to visit Israel and become closer to the global Jewish community.

After Birthright Israel, I became a StandWithUs Emerson Fellow, a Hasbara Fellow, I used a Masa Israel grant, then became a Madrich on another Birthright Israel trip in 2012. Then I went on to study for a master’s degree at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. While living in Israel, I gained a lot of leadership experience including working in local elections, working for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, and in private risk consulting. Afterward, I worked on Israel policy in the U.S. Congress and became a Hebrew language-tested U.S. Navy sailor despite only knowing Shalom before my Birthright Israel trip.

Most importantly, if I hadn’t taken that Birthright Israel trip, which inspired me to move to Israel, I would not have met my amazing wife while studying in Jerusalem.

I am now running for Congress, and I am proud to have a campaign video and web page that I made in Hebrew. I owe many thanks to Birthright Israel Foundation, because of the investment of their donors who contributed so much to my education and life experiences simply because of this one life-changing trip.

The true impact of the work Birthright Israel Foundation is doing will not be understood for some time, but the immediate impact is clear. More people have connected with Israel and hundreds of thousands of Jewish people who have little connection with the Jewish community now do. My story is echoed by many that joined Birthright Israel with me. In the long run, I believe that the hundreds of thousands of Jewish people sent to Israel on Birthright Israel will make up the next generation of leaders, philanthropists, activists, and productive members of society.

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2008 Alumnus Guido Weiss in from of the American flag