Last year I went on Taglit-Birthright Israel. To be honest, I was totally against the idea as I don't feel that I have any Jewish connections.
After spending ten days traveling around Israel - I returned home to Toronto, a changed person.
Before the trip I was struggling with a lot of personal/self-esteem issues which I had a hard time expressing and managing. Throughout the trip I learned different ways to be comfortable with who I am as an individual. One of the main stressors in my life was struggling with my sexuality (which has been ongoing for years). One day while we were given free time in Israel I met a very nice couple who invited me to have a cup of coffee with them. During that short time I learned a lot about the couple and about their values and beliefs. There was one saying that they told me which has stuck with me to this day - ultimately changing my life, to this day. "We live our lives like each day is our last." With this being said I looked back on my personal/self-esteem issues and realized that they were not as detrimental as I originally thought.
Before my Birthright trip I knew I liked men but did not know if I was comfortable announcing it to the world. A year ago, I would never be comfortable saying that I was gay. Today - I feel proud and confident about the man I have become and that is all thanks to my life changing experience.
None of the changes in my life would have ever become possible if I did not take a chance and go on my Birthright experience. From not feeling any connection to Israel, or Judaism for that matter, I now try to attend shul as often as I can and give back to my community as well.
Birthright is a life changing experience and that has done just that for me, changed my life!
Jack Greene is a student at George Brown College in Toronto.