Largest number of UMass Students Go on Taglit-Birthright Israel Trips
By Stacey Dresner
AMHERST – “I feel like I am more in touch with my Judaism and I feel more proud to be Jewish.”
“It gave me a deeper appreciation for my heritage.”
“I feel more connected to Israel, the people and my religion/culture.”
“Love being Jewish. Proud of it more than ever.”
These are just some of the comments made by some of the participants of the most recent Taglit-Birthright Israel trip organized by University of Massachusetts Hillel. In January, 80 students went on the trip, the largest group that UMass Hillel has ever taken to Israel on Birthright.
Twenty more students will go to Israel in March for UMass Hillel’s first community service trip with the Jewish National Fund. Eighty more students are set to go on Birthright in May — twice as many as last year.
“In all that’s 180 students! By far our largest number,” said UMass Hillel Executive Director Rabbi Saul Perlmutter. “All these trips are accompanied by UMass Hillel staff. Almost all the students are from UMass, so that we can maximize their ongoing participation in Jewish life after they return to campus.”
Ian Golden, of Norwalk, Conn. and a sophomore at UMass Amherst, said that although he was a bit nervous going on the trip knowing only one other participant, he returned to UMass “having made 39 new friends.”
Golden’s father, who passed away when he was three, loved Israel and at one time taught English there.
“It was also great to go to the places my father loved and had been to many years ago, such as the Holy City [Jerusalem] and the Western Wall,” Ian said. “Even though my father passed away, I will carry on his love for the land of Israel, and I promise that it is a love that will never wane. Words cannot really describe how amazing this trip was so I will sum it up as best as I can: this truly was the trip of a lifetime.”
“I learned so much about Israeli culture, language and tradition that no amount of text books could have ever taught me,” said another UMass student, Matt Bruha. “Sharing laughs on the bus, that extra tidbit of history or partying the night away with them made it easy for me to fall in love with the land and its people. I could go on forever, talking about the emotions felt at Yad Vashem, or how much fun we had at Masada and the Dead Sea. But what was important is that we all came together. Whether we hang out or see each other much in the future, we will all share this experience and that is an eternal bond.”