Out Of My Comfort Zone

Tags: Jewish Identity, Diaspora, Inspiration and Hope

I was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia in an area where Judaism was very present, and the feeling of community and belonging was present. I grew up in a Kosher home, attending both Hebrew and Sunday school, went to Temple and Jewish summer camp, and my bat mitzvah was an experience I'll never forget. When I was younger Judaism was not something I understood, but something I had to participate in. My grandfather being a Conservative rabbi influenced the value and pride which my parents raised us in our home. All these influences were not particularly important to me at the time, most of these activities felt like a chore.

It was not until high school, and even more my sophomore year of college that the importance of my Jewishness became evident to me and more about family and family traditions. Being the youngest of three, getting to see my brothers and my sister in law every Friday night was something I would look forward to. Spending Shabbat dinners with my family became less of a chore and more of a privilege. Especially once I got into college, I was far away from my family and getting to spend High Holidays or Shabbat with them were and still are some of my most cherished memories.

Sophomore year in college was a turning point for my religious view point. As most people know, freshman year in college can be exciting, exhausting, and especially difficult to stay connected to Judaism. I was at a low point in the beginning of my school year, but my school’s Chabad offered classes that became an escape from my stress, but quickly turned into a safe place to be surrounded by fellow Jews at my school.

I became close with the wife of the rabbi who invited me to do lunch with her every week. During these lunches we talked a lot about what was going on in our life but also about Torah, prayer, Kabbalah and Jewish values and teachings that I could apply to my life. I became very comfortable in my Jewish identity, and began seeking out new opportunities that could help me grow.

It would seem this is what binds us all together in my generation - our desire to seek out more, more of ourselves, more of what we believe in.

It may be no surprise to some that my search led me to explore the opportunity to come to Israel. I was researching Birthright, and came across an internship program that could not only give me the opportunity to feel the real Israel, but in which I could do something that could truly make a difference.

Two months overseas was way out of my comfort zone, but I was enticed. I had never been out of the country without my family and would be living alone in a foreign country. Research and interviews and endless bouts of indecision, but ultimately, I knew it would help me grow as a person.

Excited for an adventure that was still several months away - but the seed had been planted. Elana immediately trusted me with creating a case study for Israel Forever - a unique project that will help shift perspectives by creating new ways of sharing information about Israel to new audiences. A full semester of research, I had months to wait until the big day would arrive, and I had no idea what was in store for me.

On the morning of my flight, my stomach was in knots, all my worries were going through my head. Once I finally landed and got to Jerusalem, the few girls I had met already, and I went to go explore. We took a bus to the Old City and watched the sunset from one of the viewpoints overlooking the expanse of this amazing historical and beautiful place. In that moment I knew that this experience was going to be far beyond just “way out of my comfort zone,” but I was going to come back home a new person. I knew that this program was the right choice for me.

I have only been in Israel for a few weeks, but already, The Israel Forever Foundation and the country of Israel has had such an impact on my life. I am excited for all the experience I will gain and to stay connected to Israel even after my stay here ends. I hope to achieve personal growth from this experience. Coming to a new country and engulfing yourself into their community can be very daunting. Looking back from when I first got here, the Jerusalem that seemed so big has become my home. I wish that someone had told me to have this experience earlier, too push myself to do something that is uncomfortable but ultimately helped me become my greatest self.

Sarah Weinberger

Sarah Weinberger was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. She will be graduating in 2020 from The University of Alabama with a degree in Advertising and a minor in Communication Studies. Sarah is spending the summer in Israel where she is lucky enough to call Jerusalem her home. She is looking forward to grow her knowledge in advertising and marketing.

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Tags: Jewish Identity, Diaspora, Inspiration and Hope