Allie Taylor, a junior at Oxbridge Academy in West Palm Beach, has always been active in the local Palm Beach Jewish community.
She has participated in Shabbat Around The World with local Palm Beach Synagogues, is President of the Jewish Student Connection club at her school, which she also founded in 2012, and has always loved and felt connected to Judaism. But until this past summer, she never realized how strong that connection could be.
“I’ve always loved being Jewish,” Allie said. “But after my experience this summer, I felt connected like never before. Attending temple, celebrating Shabbat and talking to my peers about Israel is so much more emotional for me now. I have a newfound proudness and respect for being Jewish.”
Allie’s experience this past summer in Israel came as part of Bonim Chaim, a Federation initiative. Along with 17 of her peers from Palm Beach County, Allie spent three weeks enjoying all the State of Israel has to offer – including seeing museums, touring places like Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Masada, participating in community service and leadership opportunities, and even staying with Israeli families in Federation’s Partnership 2gether communities in the TZAHAR Region (Tzfat, Hatzor Haglilit and Rosh Pina).
“People said Bonim Chaim would change my life,” Allie added. “It did that and more. I’ve realized so much about myself and about the Jewish religion. I learned more in this week than I had learned all year. This was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.”
Allie had the opportunity to stay with two families while in Israel and got to experience the everyday life of a young Israeli Jew. She is looking forward to this spring when the same people she stayed with in Israel will visit the United States and stay with her and her own family.
Bonim Chaim is the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County’s three-week-long teen mission trip to Israel. It combines learning, education, social action and community service. Teens also get the opportunity to live with their Israeli peers in Federation’s partnership region of Tzahar where they create relationships and build bonds that last a lifetime. Additionally, Bonim Chaim participants receive up to 100 community service hours upon completion of the program and are invited to be part of preparation and follow-up activities throughout the year in Palm Beach County to help them stay involved with the Jewish community.
“Jewish Federation has really helped me create a real connection with being Jewish,” Allie said. “I am so grateful for such an active Federation. If it wasn’t for Federation and the programs they offer and the financial support, I would not have had this summer’s experience. Through Federation’s programs I really have come to know myself and grow as a Jew.”
Bonim Chaim 2014 will take place June 9 through July 3, 2014. Contact Jessica Stein, Teen Israel Program Coordinator at Jessica.Stein@JewishPalmBeach.org or 561.615.4946 for more information.