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From The Valley to The Middle East

Meet One of Our Past Showtime Israel a.k.a. Entertainment Participants

01.26.2017
Corine Toren
Corine Toren Birthright Israel

Corine was born and raised in Los Angeles, California and went to University of California, Santa Barbara. She is currently a freelance writer and strongly believes in everything Birthright Israel stands for. This past winter, Corine joined our Showtime Israel trip and had the experience of a lifetime! 

For a long time, I was very hesitant to go on Birthright Israel. While I was still in college, my parents were constantly begging me to go. All of their friends’ kids had already been, and reconnected with their Jewish identities. As someone who went to Jewish school and really never knew anyone who wasn’t Jewish until starting college, I felt like Birthright would be a waste of time for me. 

I come from a fairly religious background. My fraternal grandparents are Orthodox, and my dad already made his own transition from Conservative Judaism to Modern Orthodoxy. Both my parents are from Israel originally, so I had already been to land of falafel more than 30 times before I went on Birthright. I had already seen all of the sites and I was not interested in becoming a typical American tourist in a place that had been a second home to me for most of my life. I felt like I wasn’t the right candidate for Birthright. Why would they want me? I was already in touch with my Jewish identity. Wouldn’t I be taking the opportunity away from someone who’s never even been to Israel before? 

And then, one day, something in me changed [Insert dramatic pause here]. Though not as dramatic as this season of The Bachelor, my life did change when I graduated college. I moved back home, I couldn’t be independent anymore, and I was lonely. Many of my high school friends moved to the East Coast for some odd reason (West Coast, best coast!) and a couple of my closest friends moved to Israel to complete their studies. I know; I live in LA, I shouldn’t be complaining about the lack of friendship apps. But believe it or not, it is hard making friends when you’re old! In kindergarten, you borrow someone’s crayons and bam! Instant BFFs! But in the real world, you’re just someone’s Tinder match. 

If you’re wondering what my post-college life was like, it entailed a lot of napping, ice cream, job-hunting, and self-thrown pity parties. My favorite hobby was collecting Linkedin connections. It really was a great time. 

After signing up for the Jewish Federation’s YALA email list, I found out that there were themed Birthright trips. When I heard about the “LA Way Entertainment Careers” aka "Showtime Israel" Birthright trip, I started to rethink going on Birthright. I’ve always wanted to be a screenwriter, so I thought that spending 10 days with entertainment professionals would probably be a valuable learning experience, and maybe I’d even make a friend or two. 

The next few months leading up to my Birthright trip, I begged the few people I knew in LA to come on the trip with me because I was terrified of going alone and having to meet new people. However, everyone was too busy, and now looking back at it, I am so grateful for that. Additionally, after finding out that Shachar Weiner was going to be my trip leader, I was very excited. I’ve known Shachar for years, and even though we weren’t that close before the trip, she was still a familiar face. 

Later, at my orientation, I met a group of girls that I instantly connected with. This really put me at ease, as I was so nervous that my awkward, NPR-obsessed self wouldn’t be accepted by my peers. I could not have been more wrong. Nearly everyone on my trip came without knowing anyone else, and everyone was very friendly. Friendships formed from day 1 and truly lasted even after the trip was over. 

I could not be more blessed to have met 40+ inspiring people. Although my Birthright experience was less about Israel and Judaism than it was for most of my group, people still wanted to connect with me. I was lucky enough to make some incredible friendships while taking part in Birthright Israel and I am happy to say that now that we’re all back home, these friendships continue to grow even stronger. Even though sometimes I do miss the days of hearing my alter-ego getting called, “Mary, party of 1” every time I went to the Cheesecake Factory, I do enjoy brunch more in a party of 3, so thank you Birthright

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