2014 Birthright-Israel Community Trip Turns New Friends into Family (June-July 2014)

About the Event
Young Jewish adults ages 22-26 recently returned home to South Palm Beach County from the inspiring, exciting adventure of a lifetime. Along with peers from other parts of southeast Florida and the county as well as from Israel, a staff member from the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County and another from the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County, they embarked on a journey together that will change their lives forever - a free trip to Israel on our community's second dedicated Birthright bus.

Among those on the trip from our community were new college grads, a young entrepreneur, a graphic designer, a prosecutor, an accountant, an engineer, a teacher, a coach and a writer. Some had grown up without religious education or observance, while others were from more traditional Jewish homes.

Trip leader Lisbeth Rock Cauff, a professional at the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County, set out to ensure that each participant had a meaningful trip, and sought to “connect them as a family.” For her, it was important that each traveler form bonds and friendships as well as connecting to Judaism and Israel, so they could bring their experience back into their lives and Jewish community at home.

Adding immeasurably to the experience, the local bus participants were joined on their travels by eight young Israeli peers, for the duration of the trip. These soldiers and students from Kiryat Bialik, the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County's longtime Partnership2Gether Sister City, and from other parts of Israel, provided a wealth of information as well as a view of Israel through their eyes.

Their adventure-packed expedition included inspiring and eye-opening visits to a school in Kiryat Bialik, where Birthright participants enjoyed a performance by the young students followed by the opportunity to sit down and get to know them. They also toured the Old City of Jerusalem and Yad Vashem, Israel's national memorial to the Holocaust, and heard personal stories by their Israeli soldier peers about fallen friends who now rest at Har Herzl Military Cemetery. The brisk itinerary also had them hiking in the Golan Heights, floating in the Dead Sea and scaling Masada, riding camels and sleeping in a Bedouin tent in the desert.

The South Palm Beach County and Kiryat Bialik delegations were supported through the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County and its “Partnership2Gether” program, making the community bus trip possible.

Since 2000, approximately 400,000 young adults have joined in remarkable 10-day educational Taglit-Birthright trips to Israel at no cost to them. Participants routinely describe their experience as life-changing, and research has shown that the trips have indeed proven to strengthen Jewish identity, to build lasting bonds and friendships with the land and people of Israel, and to reinforce the solidarity of our Jewish family worldwide.

Just see how our own community’s travelers describe their journey:

"Words cannot express how grateful I am to Birthright for this incredible 10-day experience of a lifetime. Seeing Israel with both American and Israeli peers gave me new perspectives, forming a strong connection to Israel as my homeland." Birthright participant, Bonnie Needleman

“In all of my travels, I’ve never felt more connected to a foreign place. It felt as though I wasn’t visiting Israel, but rather coming home to it.” Birthright participant, Corey Landman

“For me, Birthright was both an intellectual and spiritual experience. I connected with my Jewish roots and gained valuable knowledge about Israel. Because of this, I will always have a special connection with the country, and a unique perspective on what it means to be Jewish.” Birthright participant, Tara Rosenberg

From our local community bus leader: “Israel changed my life the first time I visited on a teen leadership mission subsidized by Federation 25 years ago. The experience powerfully shaped who I am - personally, professionally and in giving back to my Jewish community. It has been an honor to help these young adults shape their own Jewish lives on Birthright, a joy to see Israel through their eyes for the first time, and a privilege to watch them reach beyond their comfort zone to grow in many ways. Our relationships continue toward long-lasting friendships and bonds with each other, our community and Israel.” Birthright Community Bus Leader, Lisbeth Rock Cauff, a professional at Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County

From our community bus tour guide: “I felt like I was given a gift. I do not remember a more pleasant and meaningful ten days trip. I hope you continue to lead many more trips to Israel; it will be a huge privilege for all who'll join you.” Birthright Tour Guide - Michael Even-Esh

Next summer, the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County will offer another Birthright Israel community bus experience for Jewish young adults who will be ages 22-26 in 2015. For more information, call 561.852.3229 or email stuarts@bocafed.org.