Around the World: Jewish Federation Mission Participants Reflect on Life-Changing Israel Trips


Adventure, culture and memories to last a lifetime. The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia provides experiences for people of all ages and backgrounds to travel and connect with Jewish communities from around the world.

While in-person missions are still on hold due to COVID-19, the Jewish Federation has offered a number of tailored, engaging and immersive virtual trips for the community.

“We have pulled together as a Jewish community during the pandemic and have been able to explore the world through technology,” said Arielle Shemesh, missions and travel manager of the Jewish Federation. “I hope that soon we will be able to travel in-person again and connect face-to-face with Jewish communities in America, Israel and around the globe. When that time comes, we will be ready to take you on an incredible and life-changing experience.”

As the possibility of resuming group travel becomes more of a reality, we spoke with past participants from the Jewish Federation’s various missions to Israel to reflect on how their trip expanded their worldview and their Jewish identity.

Baruch Hashem, here’s to next year in Jerusalem! For more information about travel experiences with the Jewish Federation, contact Shemesh at [email protected].


Ali Sayer: Israel360 2018

Going on Israel360 made me feel more connected to my Jewish identity. I felt as though I was somewhere I belonged. Visiting the historical sites of our ancestors made me feel closer to those who came before us, and experiencing the newer innovations was exhilarating. It is easy to say the Jewish Federation assists in Israel, but going on this Mission allowed me to experience first hand the work being done there. 

Paul Fires: Men’s Entrepreneurship Mission 2016

I felt a connection as soon as we landed, a connection of being a Jew in a Jewish country. It was that indefinable feeling, which embraces and envelops you as nothing else can, a sense of belonging which reaches people at all levels of observance. I prayed with my Mission friends, walked among catacombs unchanged by millennia, and experienced the enormity of our Jewish history and of our communal responsibility to each other.”

Marilyn and Jonathan Goodman: Honeymoon Israel, 2019)

When we learned we would be traveling to Israel, we were looking forward to making new friends, tasting new foods and seeing new sights.  However, our trip to Israel was so much more. It allowed us to connect with a place, a destination, and a concept as something that felt familiar and foreign at the same time. Israel gave us such wonderful gifts and memories that have shaped our lives and our futures as Jewish people. 

Melinda Berkman: Women’s Philanthropy Mission, 2018

The Women’s Mission to Israel was an important part of exploring my place within the Jewish community. Being surrounded by such wonderful, strong and inclusive Jewish women during my trip reinforced my belief that raising my children in this community was the path for me. Beyond bonding with my fellow trip members, I got to meet some incredible families from the Negev region and see the work the Jewish Federation does to support growth and protect communities.


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