By Alex Stoller
Young Judaea, a Taglit-Birthright Israel trip organization, is taking action to the idea of an All Greek-Life birthright trip for those who are eligible.
One is eligible for a classic Birthright trip to Israel if he or she is between the ages of 18 and 26, can be recognized as Jewish by his or her local Jewish community, and has never been to Israel with another organization.
The above criteria is required for the general trip, according to Taglit-Birthright Israel’s website. Over the years, however, other qualifications have been implemented for specialized Birthright trips, just like the Greek life trip.
Taglit-Birthright Israel is a historical partnership between the Israeli people and leading Jewish philanthropists. The organization provides the gift of first time, peer group, educational trips to Israel for the world’s Jewish youth. The organization’s mission is to minimize the gap between Israel and Jewish communities around the world.
“What motivated me to want to do a trip like this would just be listening to all my friends stories about their sororities…It sounded as if they have a really amazing bond with one another and I think sharing the Israel experience with each other would only enhance it,” said Lisa Sharon, the administrative and registration coordinator for Young Judaea.
At this point, the trip is still in the works. Greek life students from Emory University, New York University, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and the University of Maryland College Park are working to spread the word about the trip and get feedback from other students
The University of Maryland liaison is sophomore Eliza Holsten of Alpha Epsilon Phi. “So far we have gotten responses that are showing the students’ interest in the trip, but aside from that, people have been approaching me on campus, asking for details…So the information is definitely circulating,” said Holsten.
The students representing each school collected names and dates of when people want to travel. “After we gather a good amount of people we will start sending out fliers and emails getting people interested in the trip,” Sharon said.
“The idea is to have a lot of different chapters come together from different schools. As long as [people] are in a chapter they can be a part of the trip,” said Holsten.
The activities on this trip would be part of what would make it specialized. “Some of the ideas that we thought of are to have a mini Greek week…We would like to get them together with Greek life at Hebrew University and IDC [Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya]. They will have a Greek dance and other things like that,” said Sharon.
There are pros and cons to the trip. “I think the biggest pro to doing a Greek life trip is that you get to meet people in Greek life at other schools,” said Sarah Holtzer, a University of Massachusetts Amherst graduate and former Alpha Epsilon Phi who worked with the university to get student feedback.
“I do not think there is a con to creating a Greek life trip. There is always the option to go on a different Birthright trip, but this one leaves the option open to travel with those in the same Greek community,” said Holtzer.
“I do not think that this limits opportunities for other Jews because we offer so many different types of trips to Israel. This season we are offering a trip called New Age – a trip for artists, musicians, filmmakers, and photographers…Last season we offered Birthright Plus…This trip will give us another option to offer,” said Sharon.
The pros and cons of the experts mirror those of UMD students.
Junior psychology and dance double major and member of Delta Phi Epsilon, Melanie Francer, had mixed feelings about the idea.
“I think it’s an interesting idea; however, I feel like a lot of the birthright trips through Hillel at UMD have a large portion of Greek students already. Making a trip just for Greek students would be limiting, in my opinion,” said Francer.
Sophomore psychology major, Noah Ferentz, is not in Greek life and was uncertain about the concept.
“The idea will bring all Greeks together which could be great. However, the idea could also be bad because if there are only some people from each fraternity or sorority, some people may feel disconnected from the other Greeks, essentially inhibiting their experience,” said Ferentz.
Holsten felt hopeful that the specialized trip could be a success in the spring. “I think once it comes time to actually register for the trip, students in Greek life are going to want to be on it,” said Holsten.