Jessica James was a participant on a KESHER Taglit-Birthright Israel trip in January 2011. She is currently a student at the University of Minnesota, and is an alumna of NFTY’s Northern Region and the URJ Kutz Camp.
In a recent interview originally posted on the Youth and College Israel Programs Blog, she talks about the lasting experience she had on her Birthright trip.
Why did you choose to participate in a KESHER Birthright trip?
The URJ has been and continues to be behind every great Jewish experience in my life. My home synagogue, Bet Shalom in Minnetonka, MN, is affiliated with the URJ. Through my youth group, BeSTY, and the North American Federation of Temple Youth, I heard about and attended the URJ Kutz Camp. So when I wanted to go to Israel, I knew that the URJ’s KESHER Taglit-Birthright Israel program had to be the best program out there for me.
How has your connection to Judaism and Israel changed as a result of the trip?
My connection to Judaism and Israel has inspired me to decide I want to be a Jewish professional. Through leadership opportunities and unforgettable experiences over the years, I can’t imagine myself doing anything else.
What was the most meaningful part of the program for you?
Getting to NFTY events and Kutz was never an easy task financially. I got myself to each event through my job and scholarships. This trip was a gift in every way. My dream was to go to Israel, and they made my dream come true and have inspired me to help send other people to Israel through KESHER.
What is the most profound impact Birthright has had on you?
Birthright gave me a spiritual journey, reassurance of good in the world, inspiration, tears, laughter, joy and memories that will last a lifetime.
What have you taken from your Birthright experience to use in your life at university?
In addition to an incredible opportunity and an experience that I encourage others to do, Birthright gave me an informed and new perspective on what life is really like in Israel. It empowered me to get more involved in being an advocate for Israel and Jews around the world. I plan to become an active member in the University of Minnesota’s Hillel and continue to learn about Israel and Judaism throughout my college career and well into my adult life.
Registration for Summer 2012 Birthright trips opens on February 15, 2012 (February 14 for returning applicants). Sign up for the Early Update List today at www.gokesher.org!