10 February 2015
What made you decide to go on the Birthright Israel: DC Community Trip?
When Birthright Israel expanded eligibility to include Jews who had been to Israel before, I knew I had to apply. But the choice to go on the DC Community Trip happened much later. After thinking aboutmy connectedness to the Jewish community in DC, how I would like to practice Judaism and what sort of trip I wanted to join, I decided that to grow my networks and stay associated to the community, it would be important to be surrounded by my fellow trip-mates, and have a group to come back home with. Additionally, a friend of mine had recently participated on a DC Community Trip, and had since gone to happy hours, services and other events with people who had been on his bus. I don’t want to say I was jealous, but I wanted to have the opportunity to bond with a group of Jews outside of my core family and friends. The DC community that I now have (shout out to Bus 226) is overwhelmingly positive, and communicates on an on going basis. I have made a tremendous amount of friends because of the trip, and continue to meet up with my trip-mates because of ourcentral location.
What was your experience like on the trip?
My experience on the trip was an emotional roller coaster. While the overarching themes were excitement, positivity and fun – there were moments of sadness and seriousness that every person felt as we traveled across the country. For example, YadVashem and Mount Herzl were some of the most powerful places I have visited in my lifetime, and experiencing them with a group of Jews, and especially Israelis, was a bit overwhelming. However, each moment was a great learning experience. From the Western Wall to the Dead Seato Masada, each spot had history. Being able to learn about what happened in each place was eye-opening. I also couldn’t talk about my experience in Israel without emphasizing how fun it was. Our time on the bus, hiking, swimming, relaxing, talking and bonding was well-spent, and each person came out of the trip with new friends. Because of the fun times we had together in each city, we learned a lot about the culture and history, but also have a new bond with a special group of people.
What are you most looking forward to about your year ahead in DC?
Looking ahead in DC is hard to do. You never know what is going to happen each month. But one thing is certain, the friends I made on the Birthright Israel: DC Community Trip are certain to play a big part throughout the coming year. I look forward to staying active (last year was a bit of a gym-less year for me), excelling in a new role at work and trying new things like new concerts, new restaurants, new brunch spots. My hope is that some of the friends that I made on my trip will join me in some of these adventures. I want to keep the year interesting, and I look forward to all the surprises that DC has to offer.
What do you love about the Jewish community?
The Jewish community’s diversity is incredibly unique. People from all over the world, with different backgrounds, various levels of religiosity, varying views on world issues, diverse styles, cultures and looks – can all be Jewish. However, being Jewish allows you to connect with a larger community and feel at home anywhere in the world. Growing up in Connecticut, my Hebrew school classes were facilitated so that we could interact with Jews from around the town that we would not otherwise meet. Going to Hillel in college allowed me to discuss top-of-mind issues and feast with other Jews from across the country. And now in DC, the community of Jews has embraced every member and welcomes them to all types of events. It is this welcoming spirit that continues to excite me and is the main reason why being Jewish is fun.
What is one piece of advice you like to live by?
Stay positive. In every interaction, every meeting, every class, every morning and every night, I always try to stay positive. There are so many damaging and unkind people in the world, so the more positivity I can put out there – the better. This mantra has helped me through some very difficult situations in my life, and I know it has helped others as well, since in some cases, positivity is contagious. Staying positive also leads to other beneficial traits, like being adaptable, kind and supportive. All of these things create a well-rounded individual, and I think upholding these values is important.
What is your favorite Jewish food?
Shakshuka, without a doubt. To be honest, before traveling to Israel this winter, I had never heard of shakshuka…but now I am addicted. Not only have I made it three times since returning, but I have made variations with friends and family. We have made meat shakshuka, veggie shakshuka and shakshuka pizza, all of which tastedamazing. Now, the reason shakshuka is my favorite food is because of a specific afternoon in Tel Aviv. On a free afternoon in the city, we were wandering through a market, and came across a man who invited us behind his shakshuka stand to show us his recipe. He shared his secrets and helped us understand what makes shakshuka such a unique dish. This awesome experience was one of my favorite parts of the trip, and allowed me to interact with Israelis and the culture in a special way. Shakshuka is incredibly easy to make, so everyone should try it!