17 years. I'm a very different person, and Israel is a very different state since the last time I was there as a participant with NFTY L'Dor V'Dor! I am beyond excited to be staffing a Taglit Birthright trip with URJ Kesher, and will be blogging regularly with my participants as we explore, discover and connect to our Jewish homeland.
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I'm in NYC for a hot minute attending training to lead a Birthright Israel experience this winter. After a relaxing (yet highly productive) train ride through the foliage of New England, I arrived at Penn Station ready to go. Heading toward the exit to hop in a cab, I stop. Right in front of me is a colleague/former camper/friend of mine. [Mind blown.]
In a building with thousands of people running, balancing their coffee and food while heading to catch their trains or scurrying off to their various destinations, I literally walked into someone I knew. Acknowledging the cliche, Larry Milder's lyrics "Wherever you go...there's always someone Jewish" immediately popped into my mind. I find it amazing that I was in this enormous city for a whole five minutes, and I had already found a familiar face. Jewish geography...more like Jewish GPS ninja skills!
Today's training was informative, exciting and important, as I take my first steps to trying something new - travelling to Israel for the first time in my career, and leading 40 young adults in a transformative and exciting chapter in their Jewish journeys. I am approaching this entire experience much like I did the last (and only) time I was in Israel, back in 1998 as a 16 year old who was just beginning to chart out his journey. I am soaking it all in, listening, and connecting the dots to the work I do in youth engagement and experiential Jewish education throughout the year. And as I hear the cars and pedestrians outside my hotel window in the city that never sleeps, I smile, excited to continue the journey tomorrow.