Who would have thought when the Birthright Israel program was founded 20 years ago, that our investment would go beyond reconnecting young adults to their Jewish heritage! What is an investment in one person turned out to be an investment in their entire family and their offspring for generations to come. This is what Birthright Israel Foundation likes to call “the Birthright Israel bounce,” aka the domino effect.
Take New Yorkers Sydney Lipsitz and her stepbrother Cameron Koffman, who each had unique Jewish journeys on Birthright Israel. Although they did not go on the trip together, their experiences ended up impacting their whole family. Sydney took advantage of this gift to rediscover her heritage.
However, unlike many Birthright Israel participants, Sydney was fortunate to have traveled to Israel with her family twice before signing up. She says that her family trips were eye-opening but getting to go with her friends exceeded all expectations. “I wanted the ability to visit Israel and learn about the culture – without being forced to do so,” said Sydney. After her trip, Sydney found herself returning to Israel twice so that she could spend time in Tel Aviv.
Sydney’s experience led her to convince her stepbrother Cameron to go. Before his Birthright Israel trip Cameron had not celebrated Shabbat since he was five years old, but thanks to his experience, he has now formed his own practice. “My trip inspired me, and my whole family to rediscover our Jewish heritage. I even got my mom and grandmother to come to Shabbat services with me. I never imagined I’d go to Shabbat services, let alone pay any attention to this ritual.”
Now, with their families, Cameron and Sydney have Shabbat dinner once a month and even encourage their friends to join!
Did your Birthright Israel trip inspire you to rediscover your Jewish heritage? We want to know! Share your Birthright Israel story with us here.