David and Bailey Lerner, newlyweds from Gainesville, Florida, just spent 10 days on Birthright with Young Judaea. We got the chance to sit down with them and hear the coolest Taglit love story ever.
How did you two meet?
B: We met six years ago playing beach volleyball at the University of Florida. David was very upfront with me about being Jewish from the beginning, which was interesting since I didn’t know many Jewish people growing up. I was raised in a strong Christian family, but hadn’t really felt connected to my Christian identity since high
What happened when you two started dating, then?
B: I started attending Jewish holidays and Shabbat with David and his family, and immediately felt connected to the religion. Once he and I became serious, we talked about the possibilities of me converting. I decided it was the right decision for me, so we began taking conversion classes together. It was a difficult process, but once it was completed and I officially converted I was so happy. I’m now always trying to find ways of exploring Judaism more, and I’m always discovering new things. I really connect to it all. Being on this trip has only furthered that connection, and I feel even more confirmed that this is who I am.
How did you two end up on Birthright?
B: Once I learned about what Birthright was, I kept trying to convince David to go. He had never been to Israel before and had a lot of concerns, but he finally agreed.
David, what were your concerns?
D: There were so many. I was concerned about safety, but more about the food. I’m a really picky eater. I was also worried about taking time off of work, and the fact that I don’t speak more than three words of Hebrew. I was also worried about the mentality here, but it turns out that Israelis are nicer than Americans! It also turns out that the food is great. There is American food here, like McDonalds, and Mediteranian food is also really good. I had no idea. Almost everyone here speaks English, and it was absolutely worth taking the time off of work. It was a great decision.
What do you both do for work?
D: I’m a financial planner, and I run a tree farm.
B: I just graduated with a Masters in Education from University of Florida. I’m currently job seeking to become a teacher.
What have you taken from this trip?
D: This trip has been unbelievable. If you’ve never been here and are Jewish, and you look at the history of the Jewish people and everything that’s happened here, just go to Jerusalem and stand in front of the Western Wall. You’ll feel it. Just seeing how much everything has flourished and grown here over the past 2000 years and seeing Israel as a modern state is truly unbelievable.
B: To me when I look at Judaism, the main thing I see is the value of a close-knit community. Being here, I’ve seen that so much. Everyone is trying to help everyone and acts like a family. More than anything, this trip made me feel even more apart of the bigger Jewish community.
As newlyweds, what stands out to you about this trip more than anything else?
D: It makes me compare it to our honeymoon which was six months ago in Hawaii. To pay for a whole trip like that- between the flights, hotels, food, and everything else- it costs a fortune. We came here on Birthright and basically paid nothing. For someone who has just started working in their career and understands how hard it is to make money, to be able to do all of this for free, especially with Bailey, is unreal.