There is No Limit to Birthright Israel

Published: July 28th 2010
in News » Local

Jessica Silver
Pic: Courtesy of UJA

For Toronto’s Jessica Silver, visiting Israel had long been a dream.


The 21-year-old had watched as many friends set out to enjoy the Jewish state over the years; even her own sister Joanne participated in Birthright Israel six years ago. But, for Jessica, who has spent her entire life in a wheelchair as a result of being born with cerebral palsy, her dream seemed destined to remain just that.


“I always thought it would be amazing to go, but I figured that being in a wheelchair would just make it too difficult, with too many constraints; too many accessibility issues, and, of course, travelling is always a challenge,” says the fourth-year York University student. “Even here, in Toronto, I find it tough to get around sometimes. Many places claim that they’re accessible, but often they are not.” 


But, when it comes to a young Jewish adult discovering his or her Israeli roots, Taglit Birthright Israel, which is funded by the government of Israel, private philanthropists, Jewish communities around the world, in Toronto by UJA Federation, believes that no one should be left behind, and recently Jessica’s dream became a reality thanks to the unique and life-changing No Limits Birthright Israel initiative. Jessica joined a group of other disabled Jewish men and women between the ages of 18 and 26 on their first trip to Israel, through the trip organizer Routes Amazing Israel.


Since the inception of Birthright Israel in 2000, close to 14,000 young Torontonians between the ages of 18 and 26 have  participated in this unforgettable, free of charge, ten-day educational trip to Israel.


Funded by the Community Fund of The Jewish Foundation of Greater Toronto – UJA Federation’s endowment development program - the wheelchair friendly No Limits Trip, featuring handicap accessible accommodations, site visits and activities, was designed for participants with reduced mobility, so that they too could reap the life-changing benefits of the Taglit Birthright Israel experience.


“I’ve taken many history courses, as well as some world religion courses, so I’ve had a lot of exposure to the historical context of Israel, but to actually be there, to finally see this remarkable place, to meet its people and to be immersed in the culture was completely amazing,” gushes Jessica, who, like the other participants brought a chaperone on the trip. In Jessica’s case, it was her mom Julia who also experienced Israel for the first time.


“Finally being there, I felt as if I had been transported into the pages of a history book. When we got to Jerusalem, my tour guide asked me how it felt, and I didn’t have the words to articulate my feelings. It was if I was a rabbit who fell through a portal into this world. I had to keep pinching myself. After being in Jerusalem – at the Kotel for Shabbat – I instantly felt a strong connection to Israel. It quickly became my home away from home.”


Related articles: (birthright israel, cerebral palsy)
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