HiBuR was one of the greatest experiences I have had in my life. Because I was not affiliated with a synagogue, I did not know very many people at the beginning, but the awkwardness all the Americans experienced at meeting each other and the Israelis for the first time diffused quickly. 

Our first adventure as an entire program was a very fun trip to New York City, followed by a week of hosting the Israelis. Even though I was sick for part of that week, the program was able to accommodate my needs and I managed to participate as much as possible. It was really interesting to get fresh perspective on the things about my homeland that I take for granted. 

We then traveled to Israel. Israel is the most beautiful country I have ever seen. I was never anywhere in the country that didn’t have a spectacular view. While there, we were always busy, whether driving through deserts and valleys, visiting places of great significance, or hanging out together. The time we spent seeing the sights provided us with opportunities to learn lots about them, including from an Israeli perspective, as well as connect with them on a personal level if we so chose. 

The things we learned transformed my understanding of the world and myself. They helped to paint a picture of what it means to be Jewish and show me how the U.S. and Israel are very different, but both important lands for the Jewish people. The creation of Israel was barely covered by the modern world history class I was taking at the time, but the journey of the modern Jewish people makes a lot more sense to me after actually traveling to Israel, living with an Israeli family and personally experiencing its history, current events and day-to-day life. (I mostly learned from a pro-Israel perspective, but not exclusively, and I think it’s important to note that HiBuR is not a political program.) 

The city and people of Haifa were very welcoming, allowing us to roam about and experience Israeli life. The only potential “danger” we encountered was during the judicial overhaul protests in Jerusalem, but we stayed clear of the affected areas and were guarded by an armed escort. Throughout the trip, I felt safer in Israel than I did in, say, New York City! The food on the trip was consistently excellent. Israeli food encompasses a vast array of great things, and I didn’t even get to try them all, although there was plenty of food, dessert and spices to buy ourselves. 

While in Israel, we spent a lot of time with one tour guide, who was excellent and will also guide participants in 2024. Thanks to CJP’s extensive financial support, HiBuR offered me and my peers a massive and personally monumental trip at a surprisingly affordable price. I can’t think of a better deal I’ve ever seen. 

Looking back, I realize that because I’m a bit introverted, perhaps I wasn’t as engaged as I could have been with other participants socially, although we all spent a lot of time together during both the Boston Mifgash and the Haifa Mifgash. Nevertheless, even someone as reserved as I am is still in touch with everyone from the program, Americans and Israelis alike. The more you participate in HiBuR, the more fun it is. I had a blast and highly recommend it!

To learn more about J-LOFT and HiBuR, visit jloftboston.org.

Anson Richman participated in 2022-23 HiBuR, a teen Israel exchange program offered through J-LOFT.

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