What to know before sending your teen on an Israel journey

Jordan Palmer

A trip to Israel during high school can be a life changing event. 

An Israel experience gives a student an incredible opportunity to learn, laugh, and grow together while learning not only about Israel, but their own personal Jewish identity. No classrooms, Synagogue, or Jewish school could possibly give them this gift in such a powerful manner.  Additionally, it is one of their first chances to strengthen their independence and learn life skills in a safe and nurturing environment. 

“I have never met a teen who had a “bad” experience,” said Liessa Alperin, Director of Innovative Learning, Youth and Engagement at Congregation B’nai Amoona. “Teens often come back energized to be involved in their Jewish community. They learn a great deal not only about their Jewish identity, but themselves as well.”

It’s been noted that those that travel to Israel often look for college campuses with more Jewish life.  They are more engaged in politics and are often more excited to be part of social justice and world issues upon their return.  Past teens talk about the sights, sounds, and people of Israel in a positive way. 

“They are also excited to have made new friends and be more interested in how  we, in America, support Israel,” said Alperin. “Most teens return already trying to figure out when they can go back.  The longer the experience there, the more they feel connected to their Judaism.”

Right now, many teen trips to Israel and around the world are planning to run in 2021. So, to better learn about the exciting options and meet representatives from several program, a virtual fair has been created for Sunday, Feb. 7 via Zoom from 3 top 4 p.m. 

You’ll have a chance to ask questions about health and safety, financial aid, how to find the right program for your teen and more. The fair, which is open to any Jewish families in St. Louis and around the country, is being hosted by Congregation B’nai Amoona and Temple Emanuel. 

“Finding the right program is about asking the right questions,” said Alperin.  “A perfect program for one teen, may not be the right choice for another.  Ask good questions. I find that the more questions teens ask beforehand the better fit their trip is for their personality.”

The good news is that there are so many trips out there with so many different lenses to experience Israel. 

“Seeing places around the world or in the US through a Jewish lens can be transformative,” said Emily Cohen, Director of Education & Community Engagement at Temple Emanue. “The tight-knit community created during these immersive travel experiences can lead to lifelong friendships and an appetite for participation in Jewish life as teens move through the stages of their lives.

To better prepare for the virtual fair, we asked Alperin and Cohen to suggest some good good questions to ask: 

  • How long is the trip?
  • Where all do we travel? 
  • Where are the other participants from geographically? 
  • What is the level of Jewish observance for this experience? 
  • Is there time for me to visit relatives in Israel? 
  • What is a typical day’s schedule? 
  • Will we have free time in Israel? 
  • What happens if my teen is sick? 
  • What is the staffing ratio?

Sometimes the best experience for teens can be to travel with many friends, and for others, this can be a great opportunity to meet new people from across the country.

RSVP: http://bit.ly/stltravel2021. For more information, contact Emily Cohen at [email protected] or Liessa Alperin at [email protected].