“I am a college student and I work multiple jobs including tutoring, babysitting, and a one-on-one for a child with autism. I am planning on being a math teacher in an inclusive classroom and possibly one day working in educational policy. Having my bar mitzvah was a wonderful experience for me. It was like joining a family and solidifying my Jewish identity. I was raised non-religious and I only attended Hebrew school for a couple years. Though I am from NJ, I went to grade school in a town just outside Nashville, TN where Judaism was not well-received. I had never spent so much time around so many other Jews than on my birthright trip. I felt a great sense of belonging and my bar mitzvah was a beautiful way to solidify that. It was a great bonus that I was able to do it at the Masada! This was truly an experience I will never forget.” 

– Matt Liso, Maywood NJ, Age 21.


“I recently graduated from Chapman University with a BFA in Film Production and an English minor.  In the last year after graduating, I have made some short films, commercials and music videos.  I have also been doing a lot of photography which is what I’m currently focusing on full time.  Going to Israel was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.  I can’t stop talking about it with my friends.  I want everyone who hasn’t gone before to have the same opportunity as myself.  I want to thank the donors for making this possible.  Being able to go to the Kotal on Shabbat was an experience I will never forget.  I gained a huge new appreciation for Israel and Judaism.  It was so cool to learn all about a country that we, as Americans hear a one pointed side on the news.  Having a Bar Mitzvah was great.  I had one at 13 and I got to look back at the past 11 years and see how much I’ve grown up.  It also made me so excited for the future.  Thank you so much for this opportunity.” 

– Jake Isham, Los Angeles CA,  Age 24

“It is with immense gratitude that I contact you regarding your donation to Israel Free Spirit that enabled my Bar Mitzvah to take place during my Birthright trip to Israel. The overall Israel experience has forever changed my spiritual and religious connection to Israel and Judaism in general. Along the way, I – with forty something of my brand new Birthright family – connected to the beautiful land of Israel in ways we never imagined. We learned many key pillars of Judaism and Kabbalah and each took away an extremely memorable experience, culminating in a Bar or Bat Mitzvah during the closing days of the journey.Because of the heat wave sweeping Israel, my Bar Mitzvah was not on top of Masada as planned, but was in the depths of a beautiful cavern that echoed the reverb of guitar, mandolin, clarinet, and saxophone notes being played during the ceremony. This mystical serenity created a very meaningful environment to express my thoughts about my Jewish journey and how it’s been influenced by Birthright. I was presented with a certificate and beautiful Kiddush cup afterwards.I grew up outside Houston, Texas and am currently working as a design engineer in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. After the remaining year on my contract, I aspire to study law and business at a top tier university in the U.S. Despite growing up in a Conservative Jewish family, I never quite felt connected to my faith until recently, when I became a part of a Modern Orthodox community in Edmonton. It is here that I discovered my interest in and appreciation for Judaism, which led me to apply to Birthright. My Birthright experience left me with a deeper connection to my Judaism, and I am becoming more observant as a result.” 

– Leland Remson, Edmonton Alberta


“Thank you for changing my life. When I first started writing this letter I couldn’t figure out how to start writing it. I wanted to thank you all but I didn’t know how to do it…

I’m in the military and the number of other Jewish people at my command can be counted with the fingers of one hand. This is one of the reasons why I always hesitated to tell people I’m Jewish, because as soon as people find that out they are quick to stereotype me. Before my Bar Mitzvah that prevented me from telling people because I didn’t feel comfortable enough to go through the jokes. Especially when I didn’t feel directly connected to my Jewish heritage. When the opportunity for the Bar Mitzvahs first arose during birthright I didn’t feel the need to do it since I’d grown many years passed the age others do theirs.  However as time drew closer to that day I felt compelled to do so for a variety of reasons, one of them being I no longer felt ashamed of who I was. So on that day I accepted my Hebrew name and I let it known not just those around me but also myself that I’m so much more than what people see or say around me.

I’m Yoshiyahu and I’m a Bar Mitzvah. Knowing this has changed my life and I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to realize that.”

–Daniel “Yoshiyahu” Ramos, Virginia Beach VA, Age 23

“Before the trip I was a consultant for Ernst & Young, currently I just finished my CPA and I am interviewing for jobs in Private Equity and Investment Banking. I would like to express my deepest gratitude to you for allowing me to have the opportunity to partake in the Bar Mitzvah experience in Israel. Your donations changed the lives of numerous members of our group, and the experience would not have been possible without you. I would like to share with you what the Bar Mitzvah experience meant to me. The experience allowed me to have a renewed connection with my Hebrew name, Eliezer, which was given to me in remembrance of my great grandfather.  I found it extremely inspiring how the original Eliezer in the Torah, Abraham’s servant, was referred to as a servant of G-d because of his selflessness during his journey to fulfill a promise made to Abraham (finding Isaac a suitable wife) even after Abraham died and Eliezer was relieved from his servant duties. I think it is so special that selflessness is so highly regarded in our religion. We name our ancestors after Abraham’s servant despite the fact that he was probably looked at as a second class citizen in those days because of his selflessness and devotion to Abraham and to G-d. Eliezer knew he would never be repaid for his deed since Abraham passed away, but he still fulfilled his promise out of the goodness of his heart. This is the type of selflessness I now strive to achieve. The ability and desire to give out of the love from within, without expectation of anything in return, is the purest form of mitzvah. I would not have had this experience, or this new perception, without your mitzvah. In reading through the notes I took in my journal about my Bar Mitzvah experience, I cannot help but see the similarities between the Eliezer’s selflessness and the selflessness of the donors that made this experience possible.  You gave with no expectation of receiving anything in return. You gave in order to make an extraordinary experience possible for Jews you might never meet.  Your willingness to give out of the love and passion for our People’s tradition inspires me to want to act as you and Eliezer acted.  Thank you for your inspiration and donation. It will always be remembered.”

– Byron “Eliezer” Regester, Chicago IL, Age 25


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