Onward Israel: Gabriel Kaufman

My name is Gabriel Kaufman and I grew up in a small town called Jenkintown right outside of Philadelphia. Approximately 5 minutes from my house is Cheltenham High school: both Benjamin Netanyahu and Lil Dicky, two notorious tzaddikim, attended this High School. Although Cheltenham and much of the surrounding area is very Jewish, my town is not. In fact, I was one of only eight Jewish students in my entire high school. It is for this reason that I felt such an urge to join so many Jewish organizations at the University of Pittsburgh. Currently, I am the president of Chabad at Pitt, The Vice-President of Alpha Epsilon Pi, and a pretty active member of Hillel JUC.

My connection to the Jewish People didn’t start when I became a student at The University of Pittsburgh. It started long before that. In 1996, I was born in Misgav Ladach, a hospital in Jerusalem. Up until the age of six, my family and I lived in a suburb right outside of Jerusalem. A few months before my seventh birthday, my family decided to move to Philadelphia. And although for the majority of my life I no longer physically lived in the State of Israel, I always cared for the country that I was born in. That is why I was so excited to have the opportunity to go back to Israel this summer.

From May 3rd to June 7th I studied at a yeshiva in Jerusalem, and from now until August 2nd I will be completing the Onward Internship Program. Both experiences have been surreal, and more importantly, both experiences have taught me so much about the place I call home.

Over the course of this past month and a half, I have created a lifetime of memories. One that is particularly important to me is a memory that I shared with my grandmother. My grandmother lives in Netanya and has suffered from Parkinson’s for the past ten years. In the past year, my grandmother’s condition has taken a turn for the worst. My grandmother no longer speaks or opens her eyes; she is a shell of the women she used to be.

Last week I visited my grandmother, and for the most part, the trip was underwhelming. Prior to my departure, my aunt begged me to sing to my grandmother. At first I was little bit hesitant to do so because firstly my singing sucks and secondly, I don’t really know any songs. After about two minutes of arguing, I realized that my departure was contingent on me singing a song. The song that I sang was Kol Ha’olam Kulo written by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov. During my rendition of this song, my grandmother opened her eyes and smiled at me. This moment only lasted about a minute but I will remember this memory for the rest of my life.

Thank you Onward for giving me the opportunity to come to Israel and experience some of the best moments of my life thus far.

Please feel free to contact me at glk10@pitt.edu, for any questions or more information about the Israel Experience, Onward Pittsburgh program.

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