As Birthright Israel entered its 20th anniversary year no one could have imagined a global pandemic would change the course of the program for the year. Young Jewish adults worldwide were disappointed as their trips were postponed and communities everywhere went into lockdown.
Take future participant, Isabelle Wigon of Boston, MA who wasn’t surprised to learn her June Birthright Israel trip was postponed. Isabelle had figured something like this was coming but remained hopeful that the pandemic would soon pass, and her trip would be delayed to later in the summer but unfortunately, that did not happen as the pandemic still plagues us all.
“I was bummed but I knew what was going on in the world. I knew that even if trips were happening it wouldn’t have been to the same capacity. Maybe we wouldn’t have had the same type of excursions. The trip would probably feel different.”
Prior to applying for Birthright Israel, Isabelle had carefully thought through when she wanted to go. Her sister, an alumna from 2018 went two years after college and felt she was at the right age to fully appreciate all Israel had to offer. Like her, Isabelle also waited two years after her college graduation, making 2020 the year to claim her birthright.
Her biggest dreams for Birthright Israel were to find her Jewish community, visit the Dead Sea, and make lifelong friends. Something she and participants all around the world have in common. For these specific reasons, Isabelle chose a Boston young professional trip. She shared with us: “I was really looking forward to expanding my Jewish community and was really excited for the Boston community trip so I could keep the connections going when I got home.”
You see, although the greater Boston area has a thriving Jewish community, Isabelle spent most of her childhood in a town with a small Jewish population, where it was an effort to practice Judaism. So, when she signed up for the trip, she made it a point to find one that could benefit her and the new young professional life she was building in Brookline and help her find the Jewish community she always dreamed of.
“It was strange being Jewish in a Christian town. When I was younger, we moved from Brookline, which has a huge Jewish community and being immersed in our temple to moving to a place that didn’t have a temple near it.”
Isabelle would have followed in her sister’s footsteps when she’d boarded the plane for Israel embarking on an unforgettable journey. Unfortunately, now, she is one of the over 30,000 young Jews who must wait until it is safe to travel to experience Birthright Israel.
In a time of social distancing, the word community and sense of community is what gives each of us hope. Isabelle’s story echoes the thousands who are waiting to find meaning and lifelong community through the Birthright Israel program.
You can give hope to Isabelle and her peers when you join Birthright Israel Foundation’s family of 40,000 annual supporters. Help us ensure the gift of Birthright Israel is available today, tomorrow, and always with a tax-deductible donation.