Thinking Outside the Box: A Birthright Story
By Hannah Gale, UGA '22
Living in the South, being Asian, and being adopted has made me feel “outside the box.” Being Chinese and Jewish has placed me firmly outside any figurative box. Since I moved to theUnited States in 2001, my family has become involved members of Congregation Children of Israel, a Reform synagogue in Athens, Georgia.
Despite sometimes feeling a little out of place, the community at CCI has brought me amazing experiences. I get to experience a community of accepting people who share my spirituality. During my time at CCI, I became involved with the National Federation of Temple Youth. Being one of only two Jewish students in my grade, attending Kallah gave me an opportunity to meet with other Reform Jewish youth and learn how to create my own definition of Judaism.
Going to college at the University of Georgia, I joined a historically Jewish sorority and was able to adapt and create my own Jewish lifestyle by attending events at Hillel and other Jewish events on campus. This summer, I joined Hillel UGA for Birthright Israel, a 10-day trip exploring all that Israel has to offer. I always heard of Birthright as being a “free trip to Israel!” but it is so much more than that. It is an opportunity to experience a new country, learn about local communities and the connections we have with one another, and embrace your Judaism in a way like no other. The free part isn’t too bad either!
I am extremely thankful for this experience, and even though I spent ten days in Israel and
learned so much about Israel’s history and culture, I was only beginning to dip my toes in the
water. I am still not as informed as I would like to be on the topic of Israel, but from exploring
the country first-hand and getting to spend the week with soldiers in the Israeli Defense Force, and a local tour guide, I now have a new perspective that I can use to evaluate everything I read about Israel here in the U.S. This was a trip of a lifetime that I got to attend with two of the most important people in my life, my boyfriend and my best friend, and I urge anyone who’s eligible to take advantage of this incredible opportunity.