The premise is that it allows young people from the diaspora to connect with the once and future homeland, as well as form bonds and understanding with young Israelis of today.
But to butcher an aphorism, lunches on Birthright are actually It started with the airport check-in.
When I arrive, the officers stop, get out of their cars, and follow me into the building.
They don’t stop pursuing me until the greeter has given the officers a thumbs-up, signaling I am “safe.” I have been attending the same synagogue in Minnseota for more than 20 years, and I have never seen this happen to anyone else.
I am left to think that the only possible sign of threat is the color of my skin, as 99% of the people who walked into the shul before me are white. After an away game with the 7th grade Talmud Torah soccer team, I experienced the sting of being “different” for the first time.
The two teams had lined up to demonstrate good sportsmanship—each of our hands high-fiving those from the opposing team, followed by the standard, “Good game”— when one of other team’s players called out, “Good game, burnt toast.” At that moment, I realized that I was not the same as my teammates. But when I looked around, my teammates had already walked away. Occasionally, kids from different synagogues and summer camps would ask me, “Are you an Ethiopian Jew? They made it seem as if that was the only way I could be both a person of color and a Jew.