In 2004 I moved from Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn to a small suburban town in New Jersey…
Sarah Fels and Corey Dicker have an inspirational Birthright Israel love story that spans beyond the 10 days of the trip. It is because of connections the two made from prior Birthright Israel experiences that they are married today. More so, the young couple has made Birthright Israel Foundation one of their top philanthropic priorities. The article below, written by Sarah and Corey, explains how Birthright Israel became such an important aspect of their lives.
Finding Their Beshert Through Birthright Israel
Corey Dicker: Birthright plays a role in almost every aspect of our lives. I discovered the Israeli Start-Up Nation and the technology industry through Birthright Israel, and now I work for a real estate technology company, Plentific. More importantly, Birthright Israel introduced me to Sarah.
When I applied to staff my second trip, my co-madrich (co-counselor) lived a few towns over in New Jersey. We connected before our trip, and we became best friends right away. That was seven years ago.
One Friday night after our trip, he brought one of Sarah’s best friends to my Lower East Side apartment for Shabbat. The moment her friend met me, something clicked. Our two friends then made a goal to set me up on a date with Sarah. It didn’t take much convincing.
Sarah Fels: The evening that Corey and I finally met in Soho and Israel came to our first date too! I had just returned from a trip to Israel, and we talked about our favorite places in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem for hours. (We also talked about how we grew up 11 miles from each other and went to schools one mile from each other in Riverdale.)
Corey and I found Israel at different points in our life. I dreamed of going to Israel, and finally went with another best friend when we could go on Birthright Israel. While I traveled to Israel for the first time on Birthright, Corey went to Israel many times as a kid, had his Bar Mitzvah there in 2005, and chose to spend the year before college in Israel studying on a gap year program. (Corey also tutors Bar or Bat Mitzvah studies for anyone looking.)
According to Jewish thought, spouses are one soul before birth, split into two halves, that reunite upon marriage as one (beshert). Just like Corey and I were in each other’s souls before marriage, we learned that Israel lived in both of our souls as well.
Living a Jewish Life
Corey Dicker: On many of our trips to Israel, we have had the opportunity to meet with Olim (immigrants) who moved to Israel from around the world because they faced antisemitism and could not live a Jewish life where they grew up. Sarah and I feel so grateful that we have so many opportunities to live the Jewish life that we dream about at home in New York City.
Sarah Fels: Corey and I celebrate Simchas Torah in the streets of uptown Manhattan with friends. Corey has walked home from shul on the Lower East Side wearing a kippah hundreds of times. Meeting peers our age from around the world, and hearing what they have to go through to live a Jewish life, majorly drives our philanthropy, volunteering, and desire to give back.
Young Leaders for Birthright Israel Foundation
Corey Dicker: When Sarah and I met, I was already on the Birthright Israel Foundation Young Leadership Council. I remember feeling very impressed that Sarah was a UJA Federation of New York Shapiro Family Fellow, a Columbia-Barnard Hillel Board Member, and part of the UJA Professional Women group. Before I knew it, Sarah also joined the Birthright Israel Foundation Young Leadership Council.
Sarah Fels: Now at UJA, Corey is on a half dozen committees, including REX Next (Young Real Estate Executives), Young Leaders, Generosity, Community, Young Couples, and Real Estate-Tech. He is a member of The Jewish Museum Young Patron Leadership Circle, a Selfhelp Board of Directors Observer, and Next Gen leader, and we’re both OneTable Advisors! So much of our involvement really started with Birthright Israel.
Anti-Israel and Antisemitism in Today’s World
Sarah Fels: When Corey and I both feel so heartbroken by antisemitic and anti-Israel posts in the media, we channel our pain into what we know feels right. While life sometimes makes it easy to walk away from that which seems daunting, you do not walk away from that which you love, and we love Israel. Birthright Israel allows us to walk towards complicated topics and continue to learn to navigate political, religious, and other divides.
Like the Israelites in the Torah, we still make many journeys through life. We face different challenges and hard decisions. Instead of looking at these challenges as roadblocks, we must find opportunities to overcome difficulties and strengthen ourselves as the Jewish future. That’s really why so much of our philanthropy and volunteering go towards Israel and the Jewish community, why you’ll see us support Birthright Israel Foundation, and why our apartment will always have an open door on Shabbat.
Birthright Israel Gave Us a Deeper Appreciation for Israel Education
Corey Dicker: For both of us, Birthright Israel gave us a deeper appreciation for experiential education and the fact that visiting Israel (or running on the beach, or swimming in the Mediterranean, or floating in the Dead Sea, or praying at the Kotel, or sampling olives in the Golan Heights, or drinking wine in the Jerusalem Hills) makes it even more meaningful to learn about and talk about Israel, including the conflicts.
After our last trip to Israel, we returned home to New York just in time for Passover. Each Passover, we read Song of Songs from Ketuvim, which talks about the love between partners. This analogy also describes our love for Hashem, and it really also describes our love for Israel. When we read Song of Songs on Passover, it especially reminds us about the love we saw from Hashem to the Jewish people when G-d took us out of Egypt and ultimately to Israel.
We’re forever grateful that Birthright Israel gave us each other, and that’s why we will always cherish the opportunity to invest in making Birthright possible. We can promise you that Birthright Israel’s impact lasts well beyond those 10 days. It can even give you a life partner. Just like you fall more in love with a partner every day, you can fall more and more in love with Israel every day.