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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Texas A&M outfielder Jace Laviolette (17) robs a home run from Florida infielder Cade Kurland (4) in the top of the ninth inning during Texas A&M’s game against Florida at the NCAA Men’s College World Series at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Nebraska on Sunday, June 15, 2024. (Hannah Harrison/The Battalion)
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An homage to heritage

Birthright+Israel
Photo by Photo by: Alexis Will
Birthright Israel

Jerusalem, the Dead Sea and the Western Wall are only a few stops along the way for 28 Jewish students from A&M who will travel to Israel this winter break to delve deeper into their heritage and faith.
Birthright Israel is an international program created in 1999 to provide young people of the Jewish faith, ages 18 to 26,  with a free, 10-day trip to Israel. The program has sent 400,000 Jews from 66 countries to Israel since its creation, including students from Texas A&M.
Rabbi Matt Rosenberg, executive director at the Texas A&M Hillel, said in his parents’ day, it was common for Jews to travel to Israel during high school or college, but the tradition has declined over the years.
“Young Jews didn’t feel a connection to Israel as much a they once did, and so Birthright was an effort to reconnect young Jews to their Jewish heritage as well as to the state of Israel by having a meaningful experience in Israel,” Rosenberg said.
Biology senior Richard Wallach is participating in the upcoming winter trip from Dec. 23, 2015 to Jan. 3, 2016.
“I think the trip will certainly give me a greater appreciation of my heritage and my roots,” Wallach said. “I’ll have the opportunity to see firsthand all things I’ve previously only learned about in books or in Sunday school when I was a kid.”
Stephanie Weiss, business management junior, plans on participating in one of the summer trips in 2016. She said the purpose of the trip is for the students to gain a better understanding of their faith.
“The whole goal, from what I’ve been told, is to get people our age who might not be that religious to reconnect them with Judaism and sort of refresh and remind them,” Weiss said. “This is what it’s all about, why we do it.”
Weiss said she has known people who have met their closest friends on the trip, and she is most looking forward to meeting new people on the once-in-a-lifetime trip.
“A lot of times on these trips they’ll have people from all over the country and I’m really excited to have the opportunity to meet these people I would otherwise never have the chance to meet,” Weiss said.
Rosenberg said the trip is an “appetizer for Israel” for many of the students,  and after the Birthright trip many find their way back to Israel.
“A lot of students … try to figure out a way to get back to Israel after they’ve gone on the Birthright trip,” Rosenberg said. “We have students who volunteer for the Israeli Defense Force after graduating. There’s some who take a job for a year in Israel, do an internship in Israel, some who even decide to become Israeli citizens and immigrate to Israel.”
With conflict in the Middle East in mind, Rosenberg said safety is a priority on the trips and the buses students use are both monitored and have armed guards on board.
“Israel is really a safe country and there’s security everywhere and most Israelis have served in the [Israeli Defense Force], so they carry weapons and they know how to use them,” Rosenberg said.

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