Video: Brady Meyerson’s summer in Israel reconnected him to his Judaism

By Ellen Futterman, Editor-in-Chief

Brady Meyerson went to Israel this summer on Jewish Federation of St. Louis’ Israel Bound trip, which ran from June 13-July 4. He joined roughly 60 other teens who also were on the three-week trip; for many, like Brady, it was their first time visiting the Jewish state.

Thanks to a generous grant from the Kranzberg Family Foundation, the Light was able to engage Brady and other young people, asking them to chronicle their Israel trip by shooting a short video on their cellphone, of the sights, sounds, people and places that most impacted them. While most of the teens on Israel Bound were from St. Louis, Brady grew up in Omaha, Neb., and graduated from West Side High School there. This fall he will be a freshman at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

“I was at Camp Sabra for a few years, and at the camp, I met some of my best friends. These are kids from Kansas City and St. Louis who I started getting close to when I was going into seventh grade,” Brady, now 18, who grew up attending a Reform congregation, explained. “Ever since then, pretty much everything I could have possibly done to see these people I did. We did a lot of BBYO stuff whether that’s conventions or a kickoff event. I’ve gone to St. Louis just for the weekend to hang out or for Halloween.”

At top is Brady’s video of his trip. What follows is a Q&A that we did with him a few weeks after his return.

Did the Israel Bound trip meet your expectations?

First of all, the amount of fun that I had on this trip definitely met my expectations. A lot of my friends had different ideas of what the trip would be. Some were under the impression we would be going out at night and experience Israel in a different light. I was always aware that wasn’t the plan. Besides that, if we’re talking about the actual experience of the day-to-day, it totally did meet my expectations. There’s something about waking up and having an itinerary — we’ll take you here, tell you about it and show you why it’s cool. Something about that is important and special and hard to come by especially if you’re going by yourself or a few friends. We were able to see and do so many things, it met my expectations in that way.

What resonates or stands out the most about the trip?

Actually, two things stand out to me. We were camping and then took a bus to the Red Mountains (Red Canyon) near the Red Sea and hiked up the mountains. It took about 30-45 minutes. We were almost at the top when our tour guide tells us to all hold hands and not talk and finish the hike together. I didn’t get much out of the holding hands experience but what I did get was when we finally got to the top, looking over and seeing four different countries — Israel, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia — and in the middle of this was the big Red Sea. That was like, ‘Whoa!’ I still remember what that looked like, and I probably will for a very long time. It was an amazing sight and unbelievable experience.

The other favorite thing that sticks out, which is kind of lame but it sticks out because it was so fun, was whitewater rafting. You can do it in the U.S., which is why I said it was lame, but it was a big deal for me because it was a time to chill in the boat with your friends and I was with really good friends, and we just had so much fun.

Did the trip influence the way you feel as a Jew?

Being in Israel, yes, I felt more connected to my religion than I ever have, especially at the Western Wall. Jewish and religious are very different things. I think I always have known this, but we were able to dive into this topic a few times in Israel. It was interesting to see that a lot of the people on this trip all identify as Jewish but very few identify as religious. When you ask yourself what’s the difference, I think it comes down to the values, the community and the culture and the way we talk to each other. It’s the same reason why my mom wants me to marry a Jewish girl. There is something about it – about raising your kids Jewish and a sense of familiarity. So being there, I think I did feel more Jewish around all these Jews, I was around all of these people who think like me, who have the same values. Whether they are at the Western Wall worshipping or at the Western Wall just looking around, in a sense we are all the same. I think I felt more connected to Judaism. As far as religious, I’d say yes but I’m still not coming home and wearing a kippah.

Are you interested in going back?

I am. Once again, a lot of my friends were disappointed in the things we weren’t able to do but I think it worked in our favor. When I go back, I can do what I want to do and more. I also know what connected with me. If I go back, I want to go to Western Wall even though I’ve been there because that’s something important to me now. There are many other things like that. I hope one day whether it’s on Birthright or my own trip, I will go back. This trip helped me a lot with that realization.

Did you make any Israeli friends?

Yes, I did meet a lot of Israelis. We went to a kibbutz, where we met Israelis and spent a lot of time with them over the next few days. I have a group chat with these kids and still talk to them almost every day. That’s a connection that is quite special.  Besides the kids at the kibbutz, we met Israeli kids just walking around or at beach. It felt very easy and natural to talk to people I didn’t know who were Israeli.

What is something you didn’t do that you would like to do on your next trip back?

Definitely spend time in Tel Aviv. We didn’t really have much time there, which was kind of disappointing. We were in the city of Jaffa, but I didn’t get to see Tel Aviv like I wanted to.

I hear you were 17 years old when you left on the trip and came back 18. How did you celebrate your birthday?

We woke up July 3, (his birthday), and had a full day of itinerary. That night, we got on the plane to come home, so it was actually the longest birthday of my life – like a 30-hour birthday. The night before, we went out to a fair-type thing. There were little shops and music with a dance floor. We were only there an hour or two, but after we came back, we did the “Hava Nagila” chair-lift thing. It was a fun birthday.