Owning Her Jewish Identity: A Birthright Israel LA Way Story

Sasha K. participated in a free Birthright Israel trip with Israel Outdoors and the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles this past February. Recently www.JewishLA.org published a post about how meaningful her trip was. Thanks for sharing!

Born in Russia, Sasha Karlova didn’t know she was Jewish until she moved to the U.S. with her parents at just six years old. She attended a Jewish day camp and began celebrating Passover and Rosh Hashanah with her grandparents after they later immigrated to the U.S. But besides learning the Hebrew alphabet and some Jewish stories, songs and prayers when she was young, Sasha never felt like she was fully connected to the Jewish community.

She searched for community everywhere. During her college years at UCSB, she tried joining a Russian club, sports teams and other organizations. But despite her efforts, Sasha never clicked with these groups on a deeper level. “I just never felt like I fit in or really got what I was looking for,” she said.

After hearing friends rave about their amazing experiences on Birthright Israel, Sasha applied, but was initially denied due to confusion about her parents’ lack of Jewish identity. Though she was disappointed, Sasha thought nothing more about it until one fateful day when she met Karen Sternfeld, our Federation’s Sylvia Weisz Women’s Philanthropy Senior Associate Director, while working at the Zimmer Children’s Museum. What began as a tour of the museum quickly led to Karen hearing Sasha’s story. Karen insisted that she reapply.

Once the confusion was cleared up about Sasha’s Jewish background, she was accepted into a Birthright Israel LA Community Trip through Israel Outdoors — coincidentally on the same bus as Karen’s nephew Sam! The trip departed on February 15th, 2015 from LAX — and it changed Sasha’s life. Read More!