Here are some words from Lisa Heller, a recent WUJS graduate who returned earlier this month to chaperone a Birthright program.
In the fall of 2009, after being laid off in the bad economy, I decided to return to Israel for an extended program through Masa Israel Journey, the umbrella organization for long-term programs in Israel. As a Young Judaea alumna who missed out on Year Course
, it seemed only natural to choose WUJS
, Hadassah’s Israel program for post-college graduates.
I selected the Jerusalem Learning track because I was looking to learn as much as possible about my Jewish roots and Israeli culture while living in the most unique city in the world. I truly enjoyed the element of learning offered and attended almost all of the classes and field trips offered by WUJS. I’m still not exactly sure what I was looking for when I arrived in Israel but I found a stronger sense of my Jewish identity and my love for this country. WUJS gave me the opportunity to have very real and raw experiences in Israel. I was able to see the beauty of the country as well as the political, social, and economic issues. I experienced firsthand how these problems affect the lives of Israelis and Jews from around the world, and I forever changed my view on the Middle East.
Although I returned to Miami, Florida last March to work in the legal field, my desire to return to Israel was too strong to ignore. I contacted Young Judaea to see if they had any opportunities to staff Birthright trips. Shortly after, I was selected to staff a trip that would leave on March 2, 2011. I couldn’t have been more excited to work with Young Judaea and return to Israel with young adults who had never seen the place I am so proud to call my homeland.
The entire trip was amazing, and my WUJS experience added so much to the knowledge I provided to the participants. I remember when ascending up to Jerusalem with the group for the first time, a unique feeling came over me. At that moment, I realized while my home is in Miami, my heart will always remain in Jerusalem.