Our second full day on Israel Uncovered marked my third time to Yad Vashem, and by far the most touching and thought provoking experience of the trip. I have been to Israel previously on a Birthright trip three years ago followed by living in Tel Aviv on a MASA social-justice program. Through these experiences, I have grown increasingly curious about the land, people and culture of Israel and what my role as an American Jew is in this country. I was raised in an interfaith family with my father coming from Catholic roots while my mother is Jewish. As we were much closer with my mother's Jewish family, I still felt a disconnect in where I ultimately belonged. Since then, I have constantly struggled through the journey of finding an identity for myself religiously, culturally and traditionally. It was not until my initial introduction to Israel three years ago and the sudden divorce of my parents two years ago, that I began to make sense of the contradicting thoughts and feelings I have been struggling through for so long.
The first two times I visited Yad Vashem, I felt almost envious of my peers who had a direct family connection with the Holocaust that instantly shaped their identity as an American Jew. For me, I found it much harder to find a certain aspect to connect to without the full understanding of my familial roots.
I feel as though my experience at Yad Vashem with The David Project this time around was especially meaningful because I was able to finally establish a connection and understanding of my roots I have struggled with for so long. The sheer emotions, questions and reactions to the events of the atrocities from my non-Jewish peers enabled me to feel a special closeness and sense of pride in being a Jew.
Feeling a part of a community of brave freedom fighters that are still fighting in society to this day makes me even more determined to further cultivate my Jewish identity and figure out how I can contribute to my community throughout my life. I feel very privileged to integrate all of the perspectives, beliefs and diverse backgrounds of the members of The David Project community and how each experience we share contributes to making me a better and more well rounded member of my Jewish community and my campus community.
Paulina Marcucci is a junior at Temple University studying Public Relations and Strategic Communication. She is a David Project campus fellow/intern. She is from the suburbs of Philadelphia in Lower Merion before starting her college career at Drexel University studying Fashion Merchandising and made her first trip to Israel on Birthright that summer. Since her initial trip and transferring to Temple, she has developed a very close relationship with Israel and has been back twice; once as a birthright staff member this past summer and on a MASA program called Tikkum Olam where she lived in Tel Aviv and volunteered in various non- profits and taught English in schools around the area. Along with The David Project, Paulina is very involved in Hillel at Temple as part of the Israel Board and helps curious students either travel to Israel for the first time or find ways to go back through various programs/their interests. She couldn't be more excited to experience Israel in an entirely different light and meet fellow campus leaders from all over the map! Paulina is most excited to be able to share her passion and relationship with Israel with everyone that has not yet been and travel around the country.