About a month into becoming JEWISHcolorado’s Young Adult Division (YAD) Director, my boss pulled me into a meeting and casually asked me, “So, do you want to go to Israel in two months?” Shocked, but stoked, I hesitantly replied, “Let me think about it… but definitely.” Fast forward through multiple meetings with staff and participants across North America and Israel, an Omicron surge, potentially canceling the trip, then deciding to just push it back a couple months instead… I was finally on the plane and 248 began.
248, a program of the Jewish Agency for Israel, was fostered from the desire to raise awareness to the big challenges Jewish people face, translate experience into doing on local and global scales, and to cultivate a network of emerging community leaders with passion for creating a shared Jewish future. Through this once-in-a-lifetime journey to Israel, I think it’s safe to say the team and I – now lifelong friends – did just that.
Nearly all our time was spent in JEWISHcolorado’s partner region, Ramat Hanegev, exploring the area and learning about the magnitude of its innovation. We supported a small sand boarding business (naturally, us Coloradans nailed it), toured a startup cannabis research facility, picked strawberries on a family-owned farm on the boarder of Israel and Egypt, and ate A LOT of delicious food. Most importantly, we very quickly created incredibly meaningful relationships with people our age from all over the world. So meaningful, in fact, that our counterparts from Ramat Hanegev visited us in Colorado for over a week just a month later!
In true Colorado fashion we showed them a great time. We cooked together, hiked, marveled at Colorado’s beauty on a trip to Estes Park for a long Shabbaton weekend (meaningful tears and tears of laughter included), and for some of us, learned to really appreciate how beautiful our backyard is. As a staff member, I feel so lucky to have been afforded this incredible opportunity. As cheesy as it sounds, I wholeheartedly feel like I’ve made friends and family that will last a lifetime.
If I were on the other side, and the opportunity was presented to me as a participant rather than staff, I’d jump to apply without hesitation. I saw a side of Israel I’d never seen before, and, more than anything, the comradery of the group was, and still is, one of the most beautiful and unique experiences I’ve ever been part of. I can’t wait to bring more people into the 248 family. I can’t wait to go back next year. A big L’chaim to next year in Israel!
— Jenna Raimist (YAD Director)