JCL scholarships to 13 teens cover summer travel

The Jewish Community of Louisville (JCL) has awarded scholarships to 11 local teens to visit Israel through summer immersion trips and two others to teens participating in the 2019 International Maccabi Games in Budapest.
The scholarships will enable the teens to have experiences abroad that promise to shape their future Jewish identies.
Gabe Shir, one of this year’s recipients, expects his Israel experience to change his life
“The thing that I am most looking forward to is floating in the Dead Sea,” he said. “For all of my life, I haven’t been the fondest of water, but to be on top of it with so little effort will just make me feel like I finally conquered it.”
He also expects the trip to further his appreciation of other lands.
“I’ve been to other countries before, but never have really gone deep into the culture and day-to-day life,” Gabe said. “Israel is also a special case because it is not like any other country in the world, and I can’t wait to see what it has to offer.”
Two other recipients this year are Clara Weiss and her sister, Owen.
Owen said he hoped the Israel trip will increase his understanding of his religion.
Ever since starting Camp Livingston, “being Jewish is a big part of my life,” Owen said.
He hopes to strengthen his Jewish identity in Israel.
“By going to Israel, I hope to take my level of Judaism to the fullest it can be, Owen said. “I want to know why people have such a deep connection with Israel and Judaism,” he continued. “I want to know what makes Israel so unique. I want to know why everyone says you haven’t truly experienced being Jewish if you haven’t been to Israel. I want to know about Israel.”
Clara also said the trip will expand her understanding of Judaism.
“I’m so excited to learn new traditions, meet new people, and celebrate my Judaism in Israel,” she said. “In Israel, there are so many opportunities to celebrate being Jewish, whether that’s my first time at a kibbutz or visiting the Western Wall. I hope to be able to expand my knowledge, experiences, and overall my love of being Jewish.”
Funding for the scholarships is coming from the JCL, Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence, the Ellen & Milton Cantor Fund, the E.S. Klein Fund, the Harry & Marjorie Klein Fund, the Erlen Judah Fund and the Stephen E. Gilman Fund.
Research has shown that peer teen trips to Israel lead to a stronger Jewish identity and greater support for Israel.
“I was very fortunate to be able to travel to Israel with my camp friends from Beber Camp, said Jillian Lustig, a past recipient of the scholarship. “It was an amazing experience and one that makes me want to go back for a longer time.
“Everything we did was a highlight,” Lustig continued, “but in particular the Dead Sea, hiking Masada, staying at the Bedouin tents, and of course the Western Wall stood out.
“Masada was fascinating and challenging,” Lustig added. “We got to experience living in the desert for a night at the Bedouin tents. We learned their ways of life and tried their cuisine. There’s no way to describe the feeling I felt at the Western Wall. I was surrounded with my friends, and my people.”

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