What We Brought Back: Jew­ish Life After Birthright- Reflec­tions by Alum­ni of Taglit-Birthright Israel Trips

  • Review
By – August 24, 2011
This lat­est addi­tion to the grow­ing genre of Birthright lit­er­a­ture is pure fun. Billed as lin­er notes for the lat­est album of Jew­ish life in Amer­i­ca,” it’s a col­lec­tion of col­lege appli­ca­tion-length per­son­al essays by twen­tysome­things who par­tic­i­pat­ed in Birthright Israel with­in the last five years.

The nar­ra­tors are come­di­ans, per­form­ers, play­wrights, writ­ers, artists, and dancers, but above all, they’re thinkers shar­ing at least one com­mon denom­i­na­tor: they all attend­ed the free, 10-day orga­nized tours of the home­land through Birthright Israel. Most of them report strug­gling with con­nect­ing to their Jew­ish iden­ti­ty through­out their child­hoods and young adult lives.

Some have epipha­nies about their con­nec­tion to their her­itage at the usu­al spots — the top of Masa­da at sun­rise, the shores of the Dead Sea, before the West­ern Wall — but there are oth­er unex­pect­ed moments. One young music crit­ic found his sense of belong­ing while rid­ing a mosh pit at a kib­butz bar out­side of Jerusalem.

But the com­mon expe­ri­ence planned so care­ful­ly by Birthright orga­niz­ers can lead down many paths. Some mar­ry each oth­er, some return to Israel and some don’t. As one young woman who didn’t heed the siren call to go back to Israel writes, The shame — I can’t get it out of my head. In Israel I’d felt some­thing so strong­ly, and then I walked away.” 

A Read­ing at the Strand 

Discussion Questions