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Evan Traylor

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Group of smiling young adults on an overlook in Israel with the Jerusalem skyline behind them

Too often, returnees from Birthright Israel trips are bombarded with questions (and many times answers) about the impact of the trip on their lives:

“Are you more connected with your Jewish roots?”

“Did you meet a nice Jewish girl/boy?”

“Did you feel safe while you were over there?”

“You must want to move to Israel now!”

However well-intentioned these questions may be, they fail to provide young adults with the...

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Smiling NFTY members and alumni of all ages pose together in front of a logo banner

Think back to your days in high school. Who were your friends? What did you do on the weekends? How were your grades? All of these questions (except for this last one) bring me back to my time in NFTY, the Reform Jewish youth movement. Whether it was going out of town for a regional event, planning local events at my synagogue, or getting ready for an awesome summer at Jewish summer camp, my NFTY community made me who I am today.

Amidst all of the excitement of 1,000 teens being together in Chicago for NFTY Convention 2017, dozens of NFTY alums also made their way back home to...

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A group selfie of author Evan Traylor and friends from camp and youth group

“And Jacob…left.”

This is how last week’s Torah portion, parashah Vayeitzei, begins. Jacob tricks his father Isaac into receiving the blessing of the firstborn and flees from his rightfully angry brother Esau. We read about the famous dream, during his journey, of angels going up and coming down on a ladder, and Jacob waking up feeling certain that God was there – that it was a holy place. After this realization, Jacob takes the stone he used as a pillow and makes a monument. Jacob adventures, he dreams, and he discovers the holy.

I was in 8th grade when I found myself on...

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At Metro Minyan in Washington D.C., I joined with more than 100 young adults for an engaging Torah study, Shabbat services with a touching sermon about slowing down our 24/7 lifestyle, and a delicious Mexican dinner.

At a NFTY Alumni event in Boston, MA, I engaged with...

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As a recent college graduate watching many of my friends head back to school, I’ve been reminiscing about all my incredible experiences at the University of Kansas.

My four years as a student were transformative beyond any of my expectations: I forged lasting friendships, explored my Judaism to new depths, and had time and space to truly get to know myself. From big Hillel events and working at the Reform Jewish summer camp, to staffing youth group events and learning how to make my own Shabbat dinner for friends, opportunities abounded from my friends and me to live Jewish lives...

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