I'm a Science guy, he's religious, she's a sorority girl, and they're into meditation. Could we be more different?
We were 40 strangers about to share our space, our time, and our travel snacks for the next 10 days. It's understandable that I was nervous.
I figured that all things going well, we'd get on just fine. The trip would be fun, and at the end we'd all go our separate ways and probably never see each other again.
What I didn't expect was that this weird bunch of people would be the heart and soul of my trip. That when I'd look back on the experience, I'd say that above all the awesome things we did and saw, it's the people that were the real highlight for me.
At first I thought we were just lucky, but then my trip counselor let me in on a little secret.
"It's not just us, it's what Birthright Israel brings out in people."
No matter where we're from, or what unique talents we might have, when we touch down in Israel, we're on equal ground. We're all experien read more
"Come to Israel for free! Do this, do that, get this, get that..."
You know the drill.
Yes, Birthright Israel trips are free, and that is amazing. However, the real key to a meaningful experience isn't what you get.
Woah, hold up. Are we about to release trade secrets? Probably.
Here it goes: It's about the people. It's about the connections you make. And this is twofold, on the one hand you connect with other American Jews, and on the other, you build a connection to Israel and its people. That's quite an achievement in 10 days if you ask me.
Now, the "connecting with other American Jews" part is easy, you already have 3 definite things in common. You all have some kind of Jewish connection, you're all of a similar age, and you're all up for an adventure. The connecting with Israelis part, takes a little more effort on our part, but that's why you travel with peer group soldiers, and why we organize volunteer activities.
You Get, You Give, You read more
With a Jewish father and a Catholic mother, I had two religions, but felt connected to neither. I heard about Birthright Israel and the trips they offer, but honestly didn’t feel it was for me because I wasn’t even close to being Jewish despite having Jewish blood and a Jewish last name. I was coming up on my twenty seventh year, which is the cut off to go on this trip. At the last minute, I decided to go for it without any expectation of what was going to happen or what it was going to be about. My parents are not too religious, but when I was little they still tried to pass down their religious views - according to my mom, I was not a fan of either one.
Within the last six to seven years, I did my research for my Italian ancestry and found I could become an Italian citizen, which I did. I loved the process of figuring out the missing puzzle pieces of who I am and where I came from. I was able to trace myself back to my great-grandfather in Sicily. As excited as I was t read more
We recently had the chance to catch up with Birthright Israel alum Cameron Alpert.
Today, Cameron runs AKIVA STRIPE, a clothing brand which brilliantly blends Pop Culture and Jewish Iconography. The brand is at the intersection of where where 'Jewishness' and 'Coolness' collide. His journey to discover his unique style is an interesting one.
The following is our interview with Cameron himself.
Sachlav: So, Cameron how you feeling today?
Cameron: Feeling excellent! I’m getting ready to do bit of traveling which is always exciting, so mostly packing.
Sachlav: Tell me more about AKIVA STRIPE. Where did the name come from?
Cameron: Akiva is a cognate of my middle name, Jacob, and also one of my favorite Hebrew names. Akiva can also mean protector, which ultimately creates the idea of a protection stripe, a very culturally relevant theme. The name suddenly came to mind one day as I was driving.
Sachlav: Do you believe that the Jewish youth in America these days are "proud" to be Je read more
I just got back from a trip around the US for IsraelontheHouse. The aim of my trip was to spread the word about Birthright Israel registration, and I was certain I'd be flooded by people wanting to sign up. Whoa! Was I in for a surprise?
As I visited various colleges around the United States, I was surprised at how many people have such a clear view into their futures. When asked about coming on a trip, so many people gave me an answer along the lines of, “I plan on coming in 2 years.” I don't know about you, but I wish I could plan my life so perfectly years into the future.
In all seriousness, I needed to point out to people that life doesn't always go according to plan and that it’s impossible to make such definitive plans so far in advance. There are always things which can throw your plans out of synch.
Will you have your dream internship in two years?
Will you have a new job and no vacation time?
Will you have a boyfriend/girlfriend/partner that’s not elig read more