Risa Cohn is a 2007 Birthright Israel alumna from New York City. She is the Founder of Resume Maven, a company dedicated to working with college students and young professionals on resume design and interview preparation. When she isn’t helping college students she is the Director of Student Activities in Higher Education. She also enjoys coaching student startups from New York University in customer discovery and community outreach.
Check out our interview with Risa below to see how Birthright Israel played a role in her life.
What inspired you to sign up for a Birthright Israel trip?
I had a few friends who did Birthright Israel while we were in college, but one, in particular, shared such incredible stories related to the history of Israel, the people she met, and the sites she explored. I knew I had to experience this too.
Did you have any preconceived notions prior to going to Israel?
None at all. I was purely focused on how I wanted to experience this opportunity.
Did you grow up with a connection to your Jewish identity?
Very much so. I was raised in a Kosher home, belonged to a conservative temple, and lit candles with my family on Friday night. My mother did a wonderful job teaching me the elements of keeping a Kosher kitchen like eating kosher, utensils, ingredients, digestion, animals, etc. I joined an off-campus club known as the Jewish Heritage Program (JHP) with other friends and sorority sisters in college. JHP was mostly focused on social activities, but I took an additional interest in learning more about the Jewish religion’s spiritual side, which continues to this day.
What was your biggest takeaway from Birthright Israel? What surprised you the most about Israel/Israelis?
My biggest takeaway was how impressed I was that this small country designed such a magnificent ecosystem ranging from biotechnology to fashion. What surprised me most about the Israelis was how connected I felt to the soldiers who joined us. We had similar career aspirations, values, and life goals. Meeting them and getting to spend time learning about who they were was one of my fondest memories!
How has Birthright Israel played a role in your life since coming home from the trip?
I feel a deeper connection to Israel overall and love how this country is the home to different cultures and religions. I love that I have a sense of identity to my heritage through Israel. My best friend from graduate school is a Greek Jew, and we always have talked about going back to explore further! I remember giving her a silver-painted hamsa from a market in Jerusalem. While the Birthright Israel trip was incredibly immersive and educational, there’s still more to see!
Are you involved more in your Jewish community because of your Birthright Israel trip?
I am. My sister and I had a wonderful experience at Sutton Place Synagogue last year at the High Holidays and have been participating in virtual events since that time due to the pandemic.
If you could meet the person who made your trip possible, what would you say to them?
The first words would immediately be “Thank you!” I then would follow it by telling them how generous they are to provide this incredible opportunity for me to connect and become further affiliated with Israel and the role it plays in Judaism. Your gift has afforded thousands a unique experience and important insight into their heritage.