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Religious birthright trip takes Huskies abroad for break

Campus Correspondent

Published: Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Updated: Tuesday, January 21, 2014 21:01

While many students spent their winter break enjoying the cold and snow, Jill Metzger, a second- semester business major, took advantage of UConn’s ten-day Hillel Birthright trip to Israel.

During the trip, Metzger, and over forty other students visited the historical cities of Jerusalem, Telaviv and Haifa, as well as the famed Dead Sea.

A highlight, Metzger said, was riding a camel through the desert. “How often can you say you rode a camel?” Metzger said. “It was so much fun.”

Although Metzger now considers the other students who joined her on the trip close friends, before the trip she only knew one of her fellow Jewish Huskies. Metzger says, “I knew one kid before I went and now I specifically look for birthright kids.”

Metzger recalled a freezing night the group spent camped in the desert as the experience that truly formed these new friendships. “Staying in the Bedouin tents in the desert really brought us together as a group, that’s when we bonded the most.”

Although Metzger said she was “raised pretty religious,” during the fall semester she didn’t attend any Friday night services at Hillel. “This trip was a chance to meet more people that are Jewish here at UConn. Now I’ll feel more comfortable to go to Hillel because I know people. I never went before because I didn’t feel comfortable.”

Metzger found out about this amazing experience in September when she attended an informal coffee and chat at Hillel. Those she met then suggested she apply for Birthright.

To be eligible for free trips to Israel with Birthright, UConn students must be between the ages of 18 and 26, identify as Jewish and have at least one parent who is Jewish. To apply for one of Birthright’s trips, students must fill out a two-part application and attend an interview with the Hillel Center.

The purpose of the Birthright trips is to help students connect with their religion. The experience in Israel “gets you more interested in being religious again” Metzger said.

For any Jewish students who have considered traveling to their religious homeland, Metzger said, “Definitely go. It’s so fun and you make so many friends. It was the best 10 days of my life.” 

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