Izzy

From Birthright Participant to Birthright Soldier

IzzyIzzy was raised in an Orthodox household, but he didn't discover his passion for Israel until he participated in Taglit-Birthright Israel when he was 19. These trips, funded in part by Federation dollars, have brought more than 300,000 young adults from all over the world to Israel, many of them for the first time.

Izzy loved the entire trip, but found one aspect especially compelling. "By far, the most amazing part of the trip is the soldiers with you," he said. "You’re learning about Israel through their eyes." Every Birthright group spends time with young Israeli soldiers who are about their age—this encounter, or mifgash, is a central component of the experience.

"I wanted to do my part to change the hardships that we've gone through as a people."

Not long after his Birthright trip, Izzy decided to make aliyah—and his family followed him soon after. As a new citizen of Israel, he joined the Israeli Defense Forces. He lists his knowledge of Jewish history as one of the reasons he has had such interest in joining the Israeli army: "I wanted to do my part to change the hardships that we've gone through as a people."

Nine months of training later, he headed into battle on the Gaza border to fight in Operation Cast Lead. A few weeks in, a rocket hit his base and exploded in the tent, taking off Izzy's dominant left arm just above the elbow. He spent the next year in physical therapy. “The rehabilitation stage was very rough, a lot of pain, a lot of phantom pain,” he says. "But I came out stronger." The injury, he says, did not affect his outlook on life, or his attitude towards people. "The only thing that changed was my willpower."

As soon as he was physically able to, Izzy reenlisted in the Israeli army, where he had to prove that he could still fight. He returned to combat, his rifle in his right hand, and went on to become a staff sergeant. The other injured members of his platoon also reenlisted. "Four of us got injured, all four of us returned to the army, and three of us returned to combat," he says with pride. Izzy is presently writing a memoir about his experiences in the army.

Coming full circle, Izzy now frequently accompanies North American Birthright Israel groups, with whom he is very popular. He's become one of those soldiers he met on his own first trip, who made the Birthright experience so outstanding for him. When asked why American students love talking to him about Israel, he does not have to think long before he answers. "They get to see true happiness from someone who's there," Izzy says. "They come to Israel to see what it's like, and I give them an honest picture of being proud of what I'm doing."

Community Partners Spotlight

CAJE:
The mission of CAJE is making Jewish life sacred through learning.  CAJE shall identify and endeavor to fill Jewish educational needs in the community, and shall provide centralized programs and services that individual institutions could not realize as effectively.
As an advocate for Jewish education in all its diverse forms, CAJE shall support and promote lifelong Jewish learning.  CAJE shall provide assistance to the entire Jewish community, with sensitivity to differing ideologies and bias towards none.  CAJE shall also serve as a bridge to non-Jewish educational institutions, promoting understanding and multicultural appreciation. Click here to learn more about CAJE.

 

Judaism Your Way:
Judaism Your Way’s vision is a Jewish community as an open tent — inclusive of, responsive to and engaged by all Jews and their loved ones. JYW’s mission is to offer innovative opportunities to connect Jewishly for all Jews and their loved ones, including: those not affiliated with existing institutions, those otherwise disengaged from active Jewish life, interfaith couples and families, LGBT individuals, couples, and families, “Jewish‐plus” individuals and families, that is, those whose spirituality and identity include more than Judaism, and individuals and families of all financial means. Click here to learn more about Judaism Your Way.

Pay Your Pledge

The Jewish Federations of North America have released their 2014 public policy priorties; our Washington office brings the Federations’ voice to Capitol Hill and the White House, advocating for life-saving and humanitarian assistance in the United States and 70 other countries around the world.
 
Our priorities are: safeguarding our nation’s fiscal health while protecting the most vulnerable; promoting the international interests of the Jewish Federations; maximizing incentives for and supporting interests of charitable organizations; meeting the needs of Holocaust Survivors and empowering older adults to age in place; sustaining community services to alleviate poverty; protecting Medicaid, Medicare, and the health safety net; safeguarding the Jewish community from terrorism and extremism; advocating on behalf of individuals with disabilities; coordinating rapid and effective disaster and emergency relief; speaking out for children and families; securing federal funding for community programs; and assisting immigrants and refugees.
more


Jewish Community Foundation


.