Israel Outdoors For Life

When Lauren Kennedy first went on her free Taglit-Birthright Israel trip with Israel Outdoors in the summer of 2012 she knew no one.  Now she has 39 close friends including her roommate.  Read more about how she made friends for life below.
480071_3361875881542_1894990937_nWhen we met for the first time in LAX I could instantly tell we were a diverse group, and it was going to be an eye opening experience. We had jocks, nerds, artists, space cadetss, future lawyers, “new jews” discovering themselves, practicing jews, college students and working adults. I know it’s starting to sound like we were heading out on an extended version of “The Breakfast Club”, but really the diversity was a large factor of our trip.
Being raised in a split house-hold, my mother is Jewish and my father is Catholic, I only observed the mainstream holidays of each religion, and was worried that my lack of knowledge would cause me to stick out. I could not have been more wrong as the trip was packed with people fully discovering the religion and culture for the first time. I had felt sometime before that I was Jewish and that I socially and spiritually aligned with the Judaism, but for me this trip was the first time I would feel a part of the greater Jewish community. 
Being in an emotionally and physically intense experience like Birthright forces people to be themselves early on in the forming of relationships and friendships. During the short time we were together, we were asked to discuss controversial, emotional, and personal beliefs, and to be totally honest with those feelings. Those conversations were crucial for understanding each other, but it was also the post conversations among smaller groups that really united and connected us. I found people that I shared beliefs with even though we had totally different backgrounds and experiences, and I had for the first time found a group of people that had strong feelings of the Jewish heritage and pride.
392437_3361942003195_1282918309_nAfter our trip there were some people that I lost touch with. That is to be expected from a group of 40 people, but what is important are the people that I still talk to. I ended up living with one of my roommates from the trip, and when our third Birthright roommate came to visit San Francisco we were inseparable all over again, acting like no time had passed. I have other friends that I talk to on a regular, if not daily basis, and I cherish those friendships because they understand me, my background and who I am becoming, and have done so since the first day we met.