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December 23, 2003

Young Jews introduced to Israel

From: Democrat and Chronicle, NY - Dec 23, 2003

By Marketta Gregory
Staff Writer

(December 23, 2003) — Naomi Weinstock already knows many of the things she’s hoping to bring back with her from Israel: plenty of pictures, memories of time spent with her sister who’s studying in Jerusalem, and a stronger connection to Judaism.

That strengthened connection to her religion is what Birthright Israel, which is paying to send 19-year-old Weinstock and 34 other young people from the Rochester area to Israel, is all about.

A number of years ago, some very influential Jewish philanthropists decided that one of the ways to help young adults connect to the Jewish culture was to have them visit Israel, said Rabbi Robert Morais, who takes over in January as executive director of Hillel of Rochester Area Colleges.

Close to 10,000 young people from the United States and Canada will experience Israel for the first time — and that’s just over winter break, Morais said. Birthright Israel groups go at various times but the most popular times are at winter break and just after classes end in the spring.

Locally, 10 students are going from Rochester Institute of Technology, including six students from the National Technical Institute of the Deaf; nine from the University of Rochester, including Weinstock; and one each from Eastman School of Music, the State University College at Geneseo and Monroe Community College.

The students leave today for the 10-day trip.

Overall, Weinstock is just excited to see everything. She is looking forward to every stop, especially the old city of Jerusalem and the Western Wall.

She’s heard that people really can float on the Dead Sea, and she just might try.

“I hope to be able to come back and sit down with people and show them my pictures and say this is an amazing place and there’s no reason to be scared.”

To learn more

For more information about Birthright Israel, call (585) 275-8514 or click on

Copyright 2003 Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.