KOACH Changed My Life

by Jessica Zehavi - KOACH Webmaster Posted on June 9, 2013
Jessica Zehavi

People say that your twenties are when you really discover who you are. For me, this was certainly true and KOACH played a tremendous part in the formation of my adult Jewish self. My involvement over the last seven years has anchored me as a passionate, egalitarian, observant Jew at a time in my life when I really struggled with being affiliated with the Conservative Movement.

I came to KOACH in a different way than most, having already graduated from college and joined a small Conservative synagogue, but I was still not sure where where I fit in Jewishly. I had not gone to Jewish day school, hadn’t been involved in USY and never gone to Camp Ramah. I had no prior connection to the Conservative Movement but I had a sense that egalitarian, progressive Judaism was where I belonged. I was incredibly drawn to traditional observance but disappointed with its absence in most Conservative communities. I had not yet realized what a gem of a shul I had found!

I approached my rabbi about the possibility of applying to go on Taglit-Birthright Israel and he, without hesitation, encouraged me to do so. In 2006, I went to Israel for the first time with KOACH and it was exactly the experience I needed. I spent ten glorious days with other committed, observant young Jews, davening three times a day, studying at the Conservative Yeshiva, and, of course, visiting all the places you would expect: the Kotel, Yad Vashem, the Dead Sea.

One memory stands out for me in particular: We climbed Masada before dawn, which most birthright groups do. What was very special to me was that we carried a Torah scroll with us throughout the trip and davened wherever we happened to be. That morning, we watched a spectacular sunrise turn into a crystal blue sky as we davened Shaharit and read from the Torah in the two thousand year old ruins on top of Masada. As I put on my tallit and tefillin, I thought about our ability to create sacred spaces wherever we may be and how incredible it was to do this in a place where Jews had been driven out.

Later that year, I went to my first KOACH Kallah where I met even more committed young Jews who had the same thirst for serious text study in an egalitarian context and a desire to live in an observant community. I have since staffed five more kallot and each one nourished and energized me. These encounters helped me through the most difficult period of my twenties where, in the end, I think the most important thing was that I didn’t feel alone.

To say that KOACH kept me in the Conservative Movement may sound dramatic but I believe that it’s true. It solidified my identity as an egalitarian Jew and showed me a fulfilling vision of a Judaism I can embrace. A Conservative Movement without KOACH is hard for me to imagine.

Tamuz 5773

Denominational Judaism