Reflections on a transformative Birthright experience


Eric Goldberg floats in the Dead Sea.Eric Goldberg floats in the Dead Sea.“Amazing” and “life-changing” is what many participants call a Birthright trip. But I didn’t realize that as a Birthright staff member, I too would have my own transformative experience. Seeing participants on my trip explore Israel for the first time was incredible. On the last day of the trip, all 40 participants, or as they called themselves, the “Chai Life Family,” gathered and reflected on the 10-day journey. As I listened to each participant share their experience, I felt a sense of pride and reflected on my first Israel trip. I explained to the group how I had the same thoughts and feelings on my first trip as they were experiencing. I told them to hold on to those feelings and their desire to return because like hundreds of thousand other young Jews, they too can make it happen. I’m grateful to have staffed Birthright as it has enhanced my professional and personal life.

Since the first Taglit-Birthright Israel trip in the winter of 1999, there have been more than 400,000 participants from 66 countries. Taglit-Birthright Israel provides the gift of a free, educational 10-day trip to Israel for Jews ages 18-26. Now, eligibility requirements have changed! Even if you have been on a teen trip, you are eligible. Trips are available in the spring, summer and winter. Each group consists of 40 participants, two staff members, an Israeli tour guide and an Israeli medic/security guard. The group travels throughout the country, exploring sites of historic, cultural and religious significance. They are accompanied for a significant part of the trip by Israeli peers, a major highlight for participants.

“The trip allows for a person to have an opportunity of a lifetime to do things they never imagined, with people they’ve never met, in a place that they’ve never been. It opens your eyes to what is really going on over there without the fabrication of the media. Most importantly, the experience really allows you to understand that Judaism is both a culture and a religion, which is an idea that most people struggle with, including myself, until this trip,” said Eric Goldberg. The 24-year-old from West Warwick participated in a 2013 trip. “I plan on not only returning, but owning property in Israel in the future and also having duel citizenship.”

Taglit-Birthright Israel Registration for spring/summer trips opens Feb. 2 for returning applicants and Feb. 3 for new applicants. Visit to learn more.

ELANAH CHASSEN, is the education and planning associate at the Jewish Alliance. She is available at 401-421-4111, ext.140.