Growing up in a Jewish household, I always heard about the Birthright Israel trips that my…
Rabbi Jordan Gerson is a 14-time Birthright Israel trip staffer, a Birthright Israel Fellow and serves as a rakaz for Hillel International Birthright Israel trips. Originally from St. Louis, Rabbi Jordan landed his dream job when he took the position of Campus Rabbi at Washington University and was glad to be back in his hometown. Most recently, Rabbi Jordan staffed a WashU Hillel Birthright Israel trip and shares his insight in a short reflection below.
Friday, May 27, 2022: Here I am, sitting in LaGuardia Airport waiting for my connecting flight home after arriving back in the states after staffing my 14th Birthright Israel trip as WashU Hillel’s campus rabbi. My co-staff and I are currently scrolling through social media and our group chat on WhatsApp, looking at pictures and comments from our amazing participants, laughing and smiling despite our sheer exhaustion from 10 days exploring Israel and a 12-hour El Al flight.
While each and every trip is just as unique as the individual participants that we take, it’s amazing to see how the groups connect and grow throughout our travels. Students transform throughout their time in Israel, and individuals that had never once walked through the doors of our Hillel prior to our trip become WashU Hillel regulars and student leaders.
I’ve led over 500 students through Israel on Birthright, and I can honestly say that the program is a gift, not just for those that go on this trip of a lifetime, but a gift to the Jewish people. Students emerge from Birthright Israel more connected to their Jewish identity and more committed to passing that connection on to future generations. They form bonds with their Jewish and Israeli peers, develop enduring friendships, and find mentors and role models they continue to turn to even after leaving university.
I truly believe in this program, and I am proud to be a part of it. I’ve seen the process, and I’ve seen the results, and without a doubt, it is one of the most effective engagement and educational tools we have at our disposal. I am beyond grateful for this amazing resource and am already looking forward to our upcoming winter trip!
Share Your Experience!
After reading Rabbi Jordan’s reflection from his summer 2022 trip, it should come as no surprise that 85 percent of participants call Birthright Israel a life-changing experience. Brandeis University studies show, time and time again, the amazing success of this educational trip, whether it be participants marrying Jewish (54 percent) or feeling a connection to Israel (74 percent).
Birthright Israel changes lives. How has it changed yours?