Allied Jewish Federation of Colorado (Federation), in conjunction with Routes Travel and Amazing Israel recently sent 40 Jewish young adults (30 from Colorado) on the Taglit-Birthright Israel trip (Birthright) in June. Birthright is an organization which has sent nearly 350,000 young adults to Israel, between the ages of 18-26, who have never been to Israel on a group organized trip, for 12 days of exploring and learning. The trip was staffed by YAD Associate, Marisa Ellman and Young Adult volunteer, Seth Wong.
Generous community philanthropist, Robert B. Sturm donated funds for a bus of Colorado young adults to participate in this once in a lifetime experience. Denver has sent a Birthright bus before, in 2011, with his support. Said Doug Seserman, Federation’s president and CEO:
Bob Sturm continues to make an investment in the future of young Jews in Colorado and beyond. Bob’s generosity offered these young Jews the opportunity not only to connect with Israel, strengthen their Jewish identity, and build community – all of which helps to build and sustain Jewish continuity for our children and our children’s children – but also to interact and spend time in our partner region, Ramat HaNegev. The group spent a day and a half touring the region and learning from former Colorado Shaliach, Raz Arbel. They visited Nitzana (educational youth village) and participated in a group bike ride through their tourism office, all of which Federation helps fund.”
The 2013 Birthright attendees have filled social media with their amazing experiences.
“This Birthright experience has been one of the most enlightening experiences of my life, I am beyond grateful for all of the people, all of the friends that made it so.”
“It’s so hard to believe that I’m already back from Israel. It was an absolutely incredible and life-changing experience, and I am so thankful for all the great friends I made along the way.”
“This trip has been one of the best experiences of my life. I’m so glad I got to share this with all of you.”
“Successfully made it back from one of the most amazing trips of my life. Such an awesome group of people in a beautiful country! Many more pictures to come, thanks for an awesome trip!”
Jewish young adults from Colorado have gone on Birthright Israel trips since the program’s inception, but many applicants are left behind every year for lack of funding. “The amazing benefit of Federation sending a bus, is that we can increase the number of Colorado young adults that get to participate in this incredible program,” said Nancy Gart, Federation’s Coordinating Council Chair.
Federation is always looking for new ways to engage young adults in Judaism and Jewish values. I can’t think of a better way to engage the next generation than taking them to our spiritual homeland and showing, in person, the impactful work we do. This is a pivotal point in their Jewish journey and, often, their first interaction with our local Jewish community as young adults.”
Highlights from the trip included touring Yad Vashem and Mount Herzl, the Dead Sea, Masada, Tsfat, rafting in the Jordan River and spending time in Jerusalem. Additionally, participants visited Colorado’s partner region, Ramat HaNegev. With funding and advancements made possible through contributions from the Colorado community, the Negev has seen a growth in tourism and sustainability. Further adding to the experience, participants toured the Old City of Jerusalem, traditional markets, Jaffa and attended an amazing Birthright Mega Event with over 6,000 young adults in attendance, along with President Shimon Peres.
Leonid Abezgauz, Heather Arlen, Benjamin Bean, Jordan Benjamin, Beth Benn, Eric Blumberg, Kate Boren, Aaron Burris-DeBoskey, Wyatt Clarke, Ariel Cohen, Erica Cohen, Ethan Coohill, Dylan Glatt Dowd, Cameron Goldberg, Jordan Gurrentz, Tyler Kane, Samuel Kaplan Gould, Sarah Kaplan Gould, Allison McDaniel, Michal Peer, Hannah Popkin, Cinjon Resnick, Andrew Robinson, Amanda Roman, Adam Ruchim, Emily Russak, Tyler Sapkin, Matthew Schulman, Lauren Shelton, Saam Shirazian, Harley Silverman, Avery Singer, Hannah Solomon, Omer Spitz, Taylor Steine, Benjamin Strauber, Dmitry Ter-Ovanesyan, Casey Weiss, Shannon Weiss, Hadar Zeigerson