Hillel starts registration for Birthright trips to Israel

A young boy plays in the old quarter of Jerusalem, where only Hasidic Jews are aloud to dwell. This picture was taken while on the birth right trip to Israel hosted by Kent State Hillel.

Jacob Byk

A young boy plays in the old quarter of Jerusalem, where only Hasidic Jews are aloud to dwell. This picture was taken while on the birth right trip to Israel hosted by Kent State Hillel.

Ashlyne Wilson

Hillel began registration for the Taglit-Birthright Israel trip, where the Jewish students at Kent State have the opportunity to go on the free trip of a lifetime to experience the historical and biblical sites of Israel.  

The trip consists of a ten-day journey through Israel to deepen the Jewish faith for all who attend.

Ricky Marcus, director of Jewish Student Life, said that the Taglit-Birthright, the non-profit organization that funds the trip, wanted to give every Jewish student the ability to travel to Israel to build a connection with the State.

To qualify, the student will go through an interviewing process to confirm their Jewish background. If accepted, they will go on what Marcus called, an “amazingly free trip.” He said the only thing students have to pay is a refundable deposit to make sure that the students are serious about going.

Marcus said that from the two times he has gone to Israel as a staff member of Hillel, he always comes back more educated.

Past participants of the trip said it definitely made an impact and made them feel all the more closer to their faith.

Matthew Unger, executive photographer of the Undergraduate Studies Program and senior communications major, has already been to Israel to visit family but said that going on the Birthright trip was different because he got to go with friends.

“I was fortunate to go with a group of my fraternity members, and we just had the best time ever,” he said.

Some of his friends were granted the opportunity of a second bar-mitzvah in Jerusalem and read from the Torah.

One of the sites that was visited was Masada, one of the most historical sites in Jewish history, where a group of ancient Jews committed mass suicide to prevent captivity from the Romans. He said being there was a very spiritual moment because it was where so much history took place, and one could stand there and just feel the “heat.”

“It’s a very good experience,” he said. “If you’re Jewish and you haven’t gone to Birthright, go. It’s a must for every young Jewish adult.”

Wolfgang Davidson, sophomore anthropology major and a student intern of Hillel, said that when registering for the Birthright, he had no expectations and was interested to see how it would affect him.

“I grew up secular and not really a part of the Jewish community and when I went to college I got more involved.

But by being in Israel, and being surrounded by so many Jews and so many important landmarks, I really felt more in touch with my Judaism,” he said.

 He said the most powerful moment for him in Israel was on Christmas Day, where he was praying at the Walls of Jerusalem, with Temple Mount in the corner and Christmas bells ringing.

“I felt connected because I was at the holiest site in Judaism, and all these people were experiencing God in different ways. It was very powerful,” he said.

Kevin Kendall, a junior marketing major and employee of Hillel, said that he was more connected to his faith while in Israel because “you don’t actually feel it until you are there.”

He said that the media blows everything up and makes people think that it’s a war zone, but when there it’s really a beautiful country with equality and peace.

For those still considering the trip, registration will continue until there is no more room for people to go. The exact date of the trip has not yet been decided, but Marcus said that it will be around the middle of May, post-commencement.

Contact Ashlyne Wilson at [email protected].