Birthright Israel trip leads to Jewish self-discovery for URI student


There are so many elements to being Jewish: religion, community, culture, friendship, experience, food, etc. My Birthright Israel trip with the University of Rhode Island Hillel let me experience each of these different aspects, which has helped me define what being Jewish means to me.

I was initially intimidated about going on a Birthright Israel trip because I didn’t have a very strong Jewish background. But I very quickly learned that many of the other students on my trip shared my intimidation. We brought each other a great sense of comfort, as well as a new confidence that allowed us to ask questions and embrace the newness of the journey we were on.

I never expected to feel such comfort being halfway across the world with a bunch of strangers, but the dynamic of spending an immersive 10 days with a group of peers built a strong feeling of community and family. Together, we established ownership and strengthened our Jewish identities through the strong friendships that we created.

Birthright makes sure that you get the most out of your trip with tours, adventures and information sessions – it was amazing how much we accomplished in a single day.

Birthright also allows you to personalize your trip with designated free time to shop in the markets, walk the streets and absorb anything that interests you. As a whole, this was my favorite part of the trip. I loved waking up in the morning for a hike with the entire group, then having an Israeli soldier guide me and a few friends to their favorite shawarma or falafel stands or to a market, where we haggled with the vendors.

But the most meaningful part of this trip for me was having the opportunity to become a Bat Mitzvah. Growing up, I felt this was a huge missing piece of my Jewish identity. Ten of us on the trip had a beautiful ceremony in front of all of our new friends, who helped us celebrate this new chapter in our lives.

I am so grateful for the experience Birthright Israel gave me this summer, and I’m even more grateful for the new people in my life, who I can genuinely call my friends.

Moving forward, I hope to discover more about my Jewish faith, and plan to return to the land of Israel as soon as I possibly can.

GABRIELL LEVY is a member of the University of Rhode Island Class of 2023. She is from Babylon, New York. For information about Birthright Israel trips with URI Hillel, please contact Michael Schreiber, Hillel’s director of Jewish Student Life, at

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