Evan Schrier, son of Carolyn and Adam Schrier, just graduated from Memphis University School (Pictured from left to right while on an early-morning hike to the top of Masada: Joe Hochberg, Evan Schrier, Alex Weinstein, Ryan Kertzner). Memphis Jewish Federation’s Lemksy Endowment Fund provided him with a Teen Israel Experience grant to help offset the cost of his BBYO International Leadership Seminar in Israel last summer. All rising high school juniors and seniors in the Memphis Jewish community are eligible for grants up to $3,000 to attend a recognized teen summer or semester program in Israel. To learn more and apply, please go to: www.jcpmemphis.org/lemsky-endowment-fund.
From meeting new people and seeing new places to learning from different organizations and speakers about life in Israel, my trip to Israel this past summer was truly unforgettable. Prior to departing for Israel, I was nervous. I did not know many people going on the trip – BBYO’s Israel Leadership Seminar in Israel (ILSI) – let alone who would be in my tour group (there were four groups of twenty-five: two groups per bus). On the other hand, my sister knew almost half of the group already; I was afraid of becoming known as “the brother” and not as “Evan.” Thankfully, however, I was very wrong.
The people whom I shared my Israel experiences with I can now call some of my best friends in the world; the relationships and bonds that can form from being thrown into those kinds of situations are like no other (camps are similar in providing this type of situation as well). At first, I was scared to be my true self: I was nervous of what people would think of me and that they would think I was annoying – that I would be labeled as “the annoying kid” or “the weird guy.” This was obviously not the case, and I am so grateful for the staff and teens for making the trip a safe place for everyone. Also, I was able to build my leadership skills to a greater extent because of the openness and strong dynamic of the group.
I grew up living in a strong Jewish household – celebrating the holidays and following the customs and traditions of Judaism – but I was seeking to be openly Jewish. Prior to Israel, I considered my Jewish identity to be very strong and outgoing, but today I consider it to be stronger than ever before. I am proud to be Jewish; that is not always so easy to say living in the South. Having spent three weeks in Israel I now care about the land more than ever.
While on the trip I met with an organization known as Friends of Roots. Roots is dedicated to building a world of peace amongst Israelis and Palestinians, where activists from both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict come together to unite the groups. The main message the organization tells is although Israelis and Palestinians have two different stories, they both occurred on the same land, and Roots strives to make people understand that this is okay; that it is normal. Visiting with Roots made such an impact on me that I have helped to create a formal partnership between BBYO and Roots, in order that teens from across our Order can learn about the conflict. In addition, I am currently working on getting the Memphis interfaith community involved with the organization. I hope people of all religious and political backgrounds can come together through Roots and understand their perspective, because they tell a unique and very impactful story.
Israel provided me with the summer-of-a-lifetime, and although I will never be on that same trip with that same group of people, who I now call my friends and family, I will forever yearn for another experience like that. I cannot wait to return to Israel.
Thank you to Memphis Jewish Federation’s Lemsky Fund for helping to make my BBYO International Leadership Seminar possible.