Back from Birthright Israel Blog

Back from Birthright Israel Blog

Meet Alumnus Jacob Weiner

(Alumni Stories) Permanent link

Mr. Weiner

When did you go on a Birthright Israel trip and with which organizer? How was it?: I went with on Birthright in December with Shorashim and, in short, it was epic. From the organization of the trip, to the shwarma, to the incredible history of the country, as well as the history of shwarma, it was amazing. And the extraordinary knowledge that our guide, Yossi, had of both Israel and shwarma spots made for a fantastic and unforgettable experience. Falafel was also on point.


Why did you decide to go to Israel: So, full disclosure, I had actually been to Israel before when I was 7 or 8, but I was told that doesn’t really count because I wasn’t old enough to appreciate the trip... or ride a camel aka the Uber of the desert. Therefore, I wanted to go back while I was still eligible for the trip and didn’t have too many responsibilities in the States.


What is your favorite trip memory/funniest story: Favorite memory from the trip would have to be seeing the Western Wall, taking a step back and seeing all my friends’ initial reactions. It was incredibly powerful for the religious to nonreligious alike, being connected to a focal point of our history. In addition, my other favorite moment was probably seeing our friend Max dive into some water on one of our beautiful hikes to rescue Natalie's Ray Bans. His form was flawless and in that one moment, he became the undisputed MVP of Birthright. 

You are from: Lincoln Park, Chicago


Where are you living now: Wrigleyville, about 30 seconds north of the field. It was a fun place to be this year.


How do you pay the bills: I work at Google on the platform that makes those ads follow you around the internet.


Favorite food from Israel: This is the most important question you can ask on the trip. See above, but my real favorite is one I can’t pronounce/write and I found it by following our Tour Guide, Yossi, and asking him what I should get that I can’t get back in the States. 


Your claim to fame/fun fact: You can usually find me on a bright orange scooter (vespa) named The Slice and I plan on starting a Scooter gang. It will be like Sons of Anarchy, but if everybody had a 401k. If interested, feel free to reach out and we can have a power struggle over who will be the leader.



Meet Alumnus Samantha Steinberg

(Alumni Stories) Permanent link

Samantha Steinberg

When did you go on a Birthright Israel trip and with which organizer? How was it?: Shorashim! It was amazing! I loved getting to travel with people from Chicago and to spend all 10 days with Israelis as well!

Why did you decide to go to Israel: It has been high on my travel list for a long time and I have heard so much about Birthright that I had to go. I love travelling to new places and experiences new cultures and Israel was a great opportunity for that.

What is your favorite trip memory/funniest story: We had the opportunity to go to an Improv Workshop related to using masks to create new characters. The guy who lead the workshop was hilarious and during his demonstration he was crawling all over people and making everyone do strange things such as standing in the corner during the show or having one person only speak using La while someone else had to translate. At one point we had 6 people on stage and in masks speaking in different accents, languages, gender swaps, and wife swaps. One of the funniest parts of this was one when person tried to mimic the instructor by climbing over all of the chairs and just ended up taking down one of our other group members!

 

You are from: Riverwoods, IL

 

Where are you living now: Chicago, IL

 

How do you pay the bills: Consultant in Healthcare Finance IT

 

Favorite food from Israel: I really enjoyed the Georgian food we had in Jerusalem

 

Your claim to fame/fun fact: My longest drive on the golf course is 326

Meet Alumnus Marissa Freeman

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M. Freeman

Freeman

When did you go on a Birthright Israel trip and with which organizer? How was it?: My Birthright journey was provided by Shorashim in Winter 2016. People have been asking me how the trip was since I've gotten back and I'm having a hard time articulating the incredible journey that was Birthright. At moments we were laughing so hard our stomachs hurt and at others our whole group experienced waves of heavy emotion and tears. The adventure was fast, meaningful, and educational. I have not only taken away so many incredible friends but also a new understanding for life in Israel and my relationship to my Judaism.

Why did you decide to go to Israel: I went to Israel when I was in my teenage years with Camp Ramah in California but I knew it was time to revisit and establish a relationship with Israel that is more mature, educated, and meaningful. Birthright was just what I needed - a spark to launch my adult relationship with Israeli culture, society, and people. Walking away with shared experiences with my bus group, which included the seven Israelis that were on the trip, means that I have a newfound understand for living as a Jew in the diaspora. I feel a sense of responsibility to educate myself continuously on Israeli society, policy and narrative.

What is your favorite trip memory/funniest story:
Being a member of the Shabbat committee was a trip highlight! Our group was fortunate enough to have two Shabbatot in Israel, one in the North and one in Jerusalem. The first Shabbat was a chance for us to get to know each other, the second was a week later when we had all bonded through laughs and tears on the trip. To help lead the conversations and plan the events for Kabbalat Shabbat with some of my new friends meant that I was witnessing the growth of our group and I will cherish that as a peer for a long time. On the funny side, we had a situation at Ein Avdat where one of the girls on our trip lost her sunglasses in the stream we were hiking along. Without hesitation, one of the mensches on our bus dove in to save them, almost sacrificing his own glasses and phone. It made for an incredible photo opp as well as a chance for us to applaud one of our own. 

You are from: Kailua, Oahu, Hawaii (#808bornandraised)

Where are you living now: Wrigleyville, Chicago, IL (moved in right before the big W, so I'll take a little bit of credit for their championship)

How do you pay the bills: I'm LOVING my job/passion as the Chicago Hub Manager for OneTable. OneTable helps you host and attend unique Shabbat dinners so you can make the most of your Friday night. Whether it’s dinner in your home or on a blanket under the stars, OneTable helps you Shabbat your way: We're a new way to Friday.

Favorite food from Israel: I had the best falafel of my life in Tzfat. I also find serious joy in Shoko B'sakit, or chocolate milk in a bag - genius.

Your claim to fame/fun fact: If I'm not eating the free food at my WeWork office or working on my #InstaCaption game, you'll find me taking classes at The Bar Method in Lakeview and Gold Coast. Claim to fame? Belting out Save Tonight by Eagle Eye Cherry with my best friend from Camp Ramah. We owned the karaoke stage in Tel Aviv while extending my Birthright trip by four days. #bestever 

 

Meet Alumnus Brett Horowitz

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Brett Horowitz 400When did you go on a Birthright Israel trip and with which organizer? How was it?: I attended Birthright in May 2016 with Shorashim and it was honestly, one of, if not the best trips/experiences of my life. Nikki and Amit were both great trip leaders, keeping things light while also always getting us where we needed to be. Or was truly an outstanding tour guide; he was and has been an inspiration to me since meeting him. Ziv was an amazing security guard/medic. What truly was special was our group itself, it was a trip out of Chicago that consisted of mainly Chicagoans, with a few Midwestern stragglers, a free bird from Vegas, as well as the 7 Israelis (having them on the whole trip is the reason I will be suggesting people do Birthright through Shorashim moving forward). Through this trip I have made lifelong friends, it has only been a month and a half and we have already hung out several times. Even more amazingly, the Israelis are already coming here to visit and one of our trip members is actually moving out to Israel for 6 months due to his experience on the trip.

Why did you decide to go to Israel: I have always wanted to go to Israel, as I felt as a Jew, it was an important trip to make. The vast majority of my friends and both my siblings went on Birthright and I felt it was too good of an opportunity to pass up, and I am so glad that I did it.

What is your favorite trip memory/funniest story: This is one loaded question. There are so many to choose from, ranging in the whole spectrum of emotions, but I will go with this one. The first 3 days of the trip we stayed at a Kibbutz Gabot, which was an amazing place in itself. All the daily and nightly activities were great, but what I will remember most about it was the time spent with the group. There was an awesome pub on the Kibbutz that played great music and had a pool table, where we all hung out and got to know each other. After the pub closed, we all hung outside our rooms at picnic tables listening to music and hanging out for hours. That was when I was able to tell that it was going to be a great trip with very great people.

You are from: Highland Park

Where are you living now: currently living with my 2-year-old Tubby in downtown Chicago

How do you pay the bills: I am the head of the digital marketing department at a small ad agency in Chicago called Marketing Partnerships International (MPI)

Favorite food from Israel: SCH WAR MA, preferably in a Laffa wrap with Hummus and hot sauce

Your claim to fame/fun fact: I have the same birthday as Michael Jordan, though it seems I got the hair and he got the basketball skills and when I was 13 I caught a 14 foot 408-pound Hammer Head Shark off the coast of Florida

 

Meet Alumnus Julie Teitelbaum

(Alumni Stories) Permanent link

Julie TeitelbaumWhen did you go on a Birthright Israel trip and with which organizer? How was it?: I traveled to Israel through Shorashim in June 2016. I. Loved. It. 

Why did you decide to go to Israel: My gf, Rachel, always said we should go together. It worked out that two of our other gfs, Stephanie and Melanie, were also trying to go at the same time. I had traveled to Israel when I was 7 with my family, I was excited to create new memories as an (mostly) adult with best friends. 

What is your favorite trip memory: Being in Jerusalem was incredibly moving and spiritual for me. I felt very connected to myself and Judaism while there. Also, I was number 47/47 in our "let's make sure everyone is here count off". The applause after saying "47"... well, it made my trip :) 

You are from: Northbrook, IL

Where are you living now: Chicago, IL

How do you pay the bills: I work at Sunstone Manufactured Housing Consultants - we buy, sell and invest in Manufactured Home Communities and RV Parks. 

Favorite food from Israel: ICED COFFEE. I think my next steps in life involve opening up an Aroma in Chicago... 

Something about me that is surprising but not really surprising: I am addicted to smoothies and avocado toast. 

Meet Alumnus Rachael Long

(Alumni Stories) Permanent link

Rachael LongWhen did you go on a Birthright Israel trip and with which organizer? How was it?: I went in January 2016 with Yael Adventures. It was one of the most eye opening, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Asher, our incredible tour guide, really made the trip what it was.

Why did you decide to go to Israel: Honestly, I wasn't feeling very "Jewish" and there was something missing. I grew up as the only Jewish person in my school, so I felt like it was a bad thing. I just lost touch. This trip was my way of reconnecting.

What is your favorite trip memory/funniest story: I have one of each. My favorite trip memory was actually one of the first activities we did. We said the shehecheyanu blessing at Mt. Arbel to celebrate this new adventure we were about to embark on. It kind of stayed with me. My funniest memory was from the bus on our way to Tel Aviv. Someone started to blast the song "Tel Aviv" by Omer Adam (if you don't know it, go listen!), and one of my fellow Birthright attendees decided to take off his shirt and basically belly dance up and down the center aisle. This became a frequent occurrence throughout the rest of the trip.

You are from: Pittsburgh, PA

Where are you living now: Chicago, IL

How do you pay the bills: I'm an Opera singer by night, Property Administrator by day.

Favorite food from Israel: I have to just pick one?! The falafel and hummus, of course!

Your claim to fame/fun fact: Aside from the opera singer thing, I can talk with my mouth closed (like a ventriloquist). It's actually a little creepy.

Meet Alumnus Ari Rothschild

(Alumni Stories) Permanent link

Meet Ari Rothschild

When did you go on a Birthright Israel trip and with which organizer? How was it?: I went on the December-January Shorashim trip. The trip was a refreshing reminder of how incredible the Land of Israel is.

 

Why did you decide to go to Israel: There is a feeling that you get while in Eretz Yisrael. A unique sense of belonging and family that I don’t believe can be found anywhere else. I had forgotten what that feeling was over the years and wanted to experience it again.

 

What is your favorite trip memory/funniest story: Bus 109 and I had the pleasure of visiting Mitzpeh Ramon, a massive rock formation overlooking the Negev Desert. Sitting amongst the breathtakingly vast backdrop of the desert surrounded by new havarim was a transcendental experience that l will never forget.

 

You are from: Highland Park, IL

 

Where are you living now: Chicago, IL

 

Favorite food from Israel: The Shawarma in Israel can’t be beat!

 

Your claim to fame/fun fact: I had my second Bar Mitzvah on the Shorashim trip. What a great time!


Anything else you want to share: Shameless plug: If you have the opportunity, go on a Birthright trip. Great people, fun organizers and a fantastic experience!

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