In 2016, Jenna McCoppin from Dallas, TX, decided the time was now or never to sign up for Birthright Israel. She knew this would be her last chance to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime gift, “It was important to me to take advantage of the opportunity, but there was also hope to find something that I had been searching for my whole life.” Throughout childhood, she had struggled to feel connected to Judaism and had many failed attempts to find her community through various Jewish events. Jenna went into the trip with low expectations thinking this was just another try at finding a connection to Judaism.
When she got to Israel, she says, “I met others who related to my experiences, and it just made me feel more human, and, I hate to say, but I finally felt ‘Jewish enough.'”DONATE TODAY
As for her fiance, Shelby, originally from Denver, Colorado, he claims to be a serial procrastinator who always had intentions to go but just didn’t. “After high school, I felt like I lost my connection to my Jewish community, but did develop a small secular community, I had a good friend in that group who pushed me to go finally,” Shelby told us.
Both Jenna and Shelby never imagined they’d end up meeting their future spouse on a Birthright Israel trip. “I’ll never forget my grandmother having the audacity to tell me, ‘maybe you’ll meet someone on your trip,’ even though she knew at the time I was already in a long term relationship,” says Jenna. It’s safe to say Jenna’s grandmother got her wish!
Aside from learning about each other, they’ll never forget their shared experiences, like the hike up Masada, where Shelby remembers wearing fur-lined sweatpants, “Jenna had a great time giving me the business about it…I think my suffering brought us together.” On a more somber note, Jenna’s most impactful experience on Birthright Israel was visiting Yad Vashem, “I was truly moved that day. It was so incredible to see the amount of support our entire group had for each other through such a difficult, emotional day.”
At the end of the day, Jenna and Shelby can both agree Birthright Israel changed their lives for the better. The picture below is where it all started, on day five of their trip. Jenna is standing with a white shirt and sunglasses on, and Shelby is to her right. Before this moment, they hadn’t really spoken. Immediately after this photo, the two went and got a bite to eat together, and the rest is history…
Jenna and Shelby now reside in Austin, TX with their dog and will break the glass on April 19, 2020. The couple is so grateful for their Birthright Israel experience they are paying it forward and encouraging their wedding guests to make a gift to Birthright Israel Foundation in their honor! Give here.