In Response to Gary Rosenblatt’s column, “Of Balaam And Birthright: When A Curse Is A Blessing” (July 15), in which he masterfully uses Kiera Feldman’s own words to show that the Birthright experience is indeed, “far-reaching, effective and successful.” I would like to add my own observations fresh from “the field.”
I just finished guiding a moving Birthright Group for the “Amazing Israel” provider. In all my 11 years of guiding Birthright, I have never had (unsolicited) requests from a quarter of my group for Bnei Mitzva (seeking a bar or bat mitzvah during the trip in Israel for participants who never had them).
On top of Masada, in a 2,000-year-old water cistern, 11 participants from places as far flung as Kentucky, Connecticut and California read, personal speeches describing why this was the time and place in their lives where they wanted to formally affirm this major Jewish life-cycle event.
Following the Shehechiyanu (He who has kept us alive) prayer on the Torah and the candy throwing ritual, the entire group moved to the southern edge of thelast independent fortress of the second Jewish commonwealth. Here the 40 American participants and eight IDF soldiers shouted out with all of their Jewish pride, “Am Yisrael Chai” (The people of Israel live). Moments later their voices echoed back to them, almost as if the Jewish people across the millennia were connecting with these participants, who had publicly vowed to be links in the chain of Jewish continuity.
The cynics who question the effectiveness of the Birthright program had to be there on that day to feel the raw emotion as another group of young Jews were connected to their tradition, people and land in this meaningful and beautiful ceremony.
New York, NY