Are you Jewish? What congregation do you belong to? What’s your Hebrew name? Which holidays do you celebrate?
No, these were not questions I was asked by my blind date. El Al security agents were trying to find out who I was, why I was going to Israel and if I had a bomb.
Luckily Binghamton Hillel’s lovely executive director, Shana Teig Kantor, had given me fair warning. I was expecting an uncomfortable interrogation before I was allowed to make my way to the gate and get on the plane for my 11-hour flight.
Along with 19 other Binghamton University students, and 19 participants from Cleveland Hillel, I boarded my free flight to Tel Aviv, compliments of Taglit-Birthright Israel. Tradeoff for the free airfare: I had to wear a name tag.
Jokes and potential bomb scares aside, Birthright proved to be a life-changing experience. The Jewish organization, which sends hundreds of 18- to 26-year-old Jews to Israel each year, helped me discover a taste for adventure.
Binghamton’s Hillel truly made my trip possible. Birthright is an extremely competitive program, and some people have to wait years for their opportunity. By choosing to apply through Binghamton’s Hillel, I was able to go right away.
OK, so maybe you’re not Jewish. To be honest, half the time I don’t consider myself Jewish either. I’ve never been especially involved in Jewish life on campus, and I certainly don’t frequent Shabbat dinners ‘ although as a poor college student, I probably should. So what’s my point?
Plain and simple, it’s to take advantage of everything you’re presented with. Free trip to Israel? Hell yes, I’ll go. I want to see the world, and why not start in Binghamton? And I don’t mean that you need to visit the Ross Park Zoo.
Research, get involved and benefit from what the campus has to offer.
Jews aren’t the only religious or cultural group represented on campus. There’s a Christian a cappella group and an African dance class. For the past two years, an international dance competition has invaded campus with Bhangra Fever.
Not only can Binghamton bring you dozens of internationally-flavored opportunities, but it can also provide you with many sports and entertainment clubs, both traditional and somewhat different. This year, my friends and I frequented the Live Action Role Playing club (LARP) ‘ certainly something I normally would not have been caught dead doing, until I realized it was the perfect excuse to play with foam swords.
It can’t be said enough: We’re young, we’re able and we’re just stupid enough to take a few too many chances. For example, I risked being seen crawling around on my knees on the Peace Quad, attempting to salvage my remaining limbs during a practice LARP session. I also went to a country that is regularly bombed by terrorists (you decide which is worse).
Believe it or not, you’ll never have as many chances for adventure as you do at Binghamton, and regret is an ugly shade of green.
Find your Birthright. Change your world.