By Lee Cohen
Today is one the most exciting days on my Shlichut as an Israel fellow. It all started about 10 years ago, when the younger me got 5 days off from the army to participate in this program named Birthright. Awesome, vacation from the army AND hanging out with those cool American kids from a place named collage park UMD. I had no idea I was about to fall in love. Everything that happened on those 5 days was magic. The conversations, how easy and exciting it was to connect with people who are almost exactly like me, but yet are so different. That first meeting with American Jewish students shaped my life and made me who I am today.
After the trip, we all promised to stay in touch. I really meant it, and even allowed my two new American friends to open a user for me on this new website they had in America – ‘Facebook’. It only took me a whole year to reconnect with them after FB finally became big in Israel as well, and I stop typing “Bookface” and get frustrated that I couldn’t find our pictures from Birthright.
As time past from the trip I started to become more and more interested in this unique connection we have, Israelis and American Jews. I started learning more about it, and eventually decided nothing can teach me better or go deeper then an experience. I decided to apply to become a Jewish agency Israel fellow.
I actually never asked to be placed at Towson Maryland. Wow, I didn’t even knew that there was a place named Maryland. I probably thought that was the name of that grumpy turtle the students from my Birthright trip had on their red sweatshirts.
But ending up here by chance, just made my experience even more magical.
Today, after a lot of planning, and a ton of help, my dream of taking part in having someone else, another Israeli like myself, to experience some of the magic I got to experience is coming true in the shape of bringing a group of Israelis who participated in our Baltimore community Birthright trip home to Baltimore.
This is the biggest gift I could have gotten for my 3rd year of being an Israel fellow. Seeing how this circle is not only complete, but is also growing. How from being a soldier on Birthright I grew and learned so much about this world, and was fortunate enough to take part in it here in Maryland, and even being able to bring new friends into it. I know in my heart that this partnership and relationship will only continue to grow.