As a child in Madison, Wisconsin, Bob Schuckit grew up in a Conservadox household where his Jewish heritage was extremely important. His parents were immigrants and valued the strength and support of their local Jewish community.
Eventually, he left Wisconsin and attended Brandeis University. Here, he had a wonderful time and credits the school for keeping his passion for Judaism alive. However, like most young Jews today, Bob lost touch with his Jewishness as a young professional. This was something he didn’t regain until he was a bit older. “I may have wandered a bit from the derech as a young professional but getting married and having children reminded me of the importance of our Jewish heritage and Israel.”
Becoming a Jewish Parent
Bob turned towards his Judaism for inspiration during those beginning years as a parent that can be challenging. Laughing, he says “the way I raised my kids is the same our people have done for 3,000 years and I think it’s worked out well.” So, as you can imagine, Bob instilled a love of Judaism, community, Tikkun Olam and of course the importance of Israel in his children. His son and daughter who are twins participated in Chabad groups on campus, B’nai B’rith youth camps, and everything in between. When they got older, they of course participated in Birthright Israel, something they were familiar with even before signing up. “We were very familiar with the program and happy it existed. We always spoke about Birthright Israel; it was always in the cards when my kids got to college – we were excited when they were able to go.”
“My kids loved it.”
Bob is excited to be known as a Birthright Israel parent and shares his kids loved the program. He appreciated that Birthright Israel was the main source of Israel education for them during a crucial time in their lives. “My kids, like most, were unconnected from the synagogue and the information funnel in America misrepresents Israel. This trip helped them see a thriving country that’s young and hip and most of all showed them Israel and who Israelis are.”
The Local Impact of Birthright Israel
Birthright Israel also plays a vital role in his small Indianapolis Jewish community where many of the young adults do not have connections to larger Jewish areas. “This trip helps them build connection and keep that connection. I’ve seen so many come home and their community involvement increases exponentially,” said Bob. He sees this playing out across the board, whether it’s involvement in a synagogue, Jewish Federation, or other organizations like AIPAC where he sits on the National Council and is the Indiana Council Chair.
At AIPAC he witnesses alumni stepping up to take leadership roles because of their Birthright Israel experiences. “The trip impacts every other Jewish organization out there. It takes people who otherwise wouldn’t get involved and gets them involved. It’s a natural combination.” His own son was an active leader in WashU’s student AIPAC group after his trip and is starting to get active in the Chicago chapter.
“It is the most important program for American Jews…”
Another reason Bob is excited about Birthright Israel is that he fully understands the program’s impact on American Jews and the Diaspora. “Birthright Israel removes the financial burden of travel and takes American Jews, at a crucial age and gives them one last chance to make a connection with Israel, Jewish culture and their Jewish heritage – it is a game-changer for the future.”
He encourages other philanthropists and parents to act and get involved in Birthright Israel Foundation’s mission. “It is incumbent that we, American Jews who have the means to fund this program do. It is the most important program for American Jews today and Jews everywhere.”