The world has drastically changed since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. We look around us…
When Lisa Philipson was growing up in Atlanta involvement in the Jewish community was seamless. She recalls the JCC being a center point of her childhood and BBYO the thing that every kid did. Plus, synagogues were always bustling with the young and the old. However, as the years went on, the Jewish community evolved and the younger generations became less and less affiliated. “Today, there are so many Jewish choices in the world. When I grew up there were synagogue groups, but today there is so much out there it can be harder to find meaning and connection to your identity,” shared Lisa.
This is one of the main reasons, Lisa and her husband Hal support Birthright Israel Foundation. They truly believe the educational experience on Birthright Israel helps young Jews feel confident in their Jewish identity. As Lisa said, there are so many choices today, but since Birthright Israel is a no-strings-attached gift, it allows those curious to find a connection in their own way.
A Personal Connection
Most of all, the couple saw the profound impact of the program on their own children. Three out of four of their kids participated. Cory, their daughter, even had her Bat Mitzvah at the Western Wall, which is something the Philipsons are forever grateful for. “I don’t know if she ever intended to have one on this 10-day trip, but somewhere along the way, it became important for her to do it. Birthright Israel presented her the opportunity to explore what being Jewish means in her own context, and part of that was becoming a Bat Mitzvah,” said Hal. Lisa vividly remembers receiving pictures of the Simcha on her phone and lighting up. “Her group also had an incredible rabbi. They made it a big deal for her and truly meaningful. It had a major impact on her life and changed quite a few things. The group broke a piece of the plastic chair used to lift her up, and everyone signed it. It’s still in her room to this day.”
Experiences like Cory’s are not uncommon on Birthright Israel trips. In Atlanta, Lisa and Hal are fortunate to be surrounded by several other Birthright Israel parents whose children also benefit from the program. “We have so many friends whose children have gone. You can see the results of this trip as soon as they are back home and we love hearing the stories — especially about marriages or the child who never had a connection to their Jewishness and now they do. We can go on and on about the changes Birthright Israel has made in people’s lives.”
Birthright Israel Reinvigorates a Passion for Judaism
More so, the Philipsons hope more children will take advantage of Birthright Israel like their own. With the rise in antisemitism and anti-Israel campaigns across social media, Birthright Israel to them represents an opportunity for young Jews to educate themselves and form their own opinions about Israel. Hal believes Birthright Israel can help the younger generation find confidence in their Jewishness. “When we see this rise in antisemitism, it’s important, especially to Atlanta’s Jewish community, to grow, support itself and strengthen. The way Birthright Israel is set up is that it can make a positive impact and reinvigorate our young people. It’s a chance to really get to know your Jewish roots and form an understanding of yourself. Let’s face it, as Jews, we’re different. We’re viewed differently than other communities, so Birthright Israel is an important part of helping our kids feel confident in who they are.”
Join Lisa & Hal Philipson and Pay It Forward
As you can see from Lisa and Hal, Birthright Israel holds a special place in their hearts, and they hope other parents and Jewish community members feel the same. However, Lisa and Hal can’t do it alone — they need you. The couple has stepped up their generosity to Birthright Israel Foundation during this critical time when antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiment is on the rise, and they hope you will join them. If you want your children and grandchildren to be proud Jews and understand Israel’s importance, then there is no better investment than sending a young Jewish adult on this trip.
“Birthright Israel is a true immersion into Judaism and Israel. It awakens our children to our history and who we are. It’s a chance for our kids to travel with like-minded people and to get an experience they certainly can’t get here in Atlanta. Believe me, when I say you’re not just sending them on a trip, this is a once-in-a-lifetime educational experience,” says Hal.