“A Great Sense of Excitement”: Honeymoon Israel Trip Makes Triumphant Post-COVID Return
“This trip is an incredible opportunity for couples to grow together, experience Israel’s culture, and find the most meaningful ways for them to incorporate Judaism into their new, shared lives,” said Stefanie Swiger. Swiger is the Young Adult Division (YAD) Development Officer at the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, and will be leading the November, 2022 Honeymoon Israel (HMI) trip.
Begun in 2015, Honeymoon Israel is a national organization that provides immersive, luxurious trips to Israel for local couples in 23 cities, age 25-40, who have at least one Jewish partner and who are within the first five years of their marriage or committed relationship. The goal is for the couples to share fun, meaningful experiences with each other and to build friendships and community. Honeymoon Israel collaborated with the Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati, the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, and the Mayerson JCC to heavily subsidize the trip for participating couples.
Twenty couples will take part in this year’s trip out of Cincinnati, the first since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. “The Cincinnati 2020 trip was the last trip that Honeymoon Israel led before the world shut down,” said Swiger. “It’s now been two years and there’s a great sense of excitement about being able to travel safely again, now that Israel has reopened its borders. Trips from other cities are running as we speak.”
The application process for Cincinnati is currently underway, with an informational night scheduled for April 5 at 6 p.m. at Café Alma. A second virtual session will take place on Zoom at 7 p.m. on April 14. “During the info night, couples will have an opportunity to learn more about the logistics of the trip, hear from past participants about their trip experience, and be able to ask questions,” said Swiger. “There will also be a chance for couples to mix and mingle with fellow potential applicants, as well as HMI alumni—and of course, there will be food and drink.”
Honeymoon Israel is open to all cultural, racial, religious, gender, and sexual identities. Each trip cohort will be reflective of the community, including couples with interfaith, Jewish, Jewish by choice, and multiracial backgrounds. Couples interested in participating have until May 3 to submit their applications. HMI staff members will then review the applications and contact couples for interviews. “If you’re thinking about going on the next trip, I would say don’t overthink the application process,” advised former trip participant Craig Douglas. His wife Abby added, “Definitely apply and be sure to go to the information session. There were so many questions we had that wouldn’t have been answered if we didn’t go to that session, and maybe we wouldn’t have applied if we didn’t know those answers.”
Couples who are selected will be notified the first week of July. The trip itself will take place November 3-13. “I truly hope the participants have the experience of their lives,” said Swiger. “I hope that they come home with a newfound sense of community with other trip participants, but also with a greater connection to Judaism and a thirst to incorporate Judaism, and the Greater Cincinnati Jewish community, into their lives, however it makes sense and is meaningful for them.”
Past participants said the experience strengthened their relationships. Whether it was experiencing the Western Wall together, growing in their commitment to Judaism, learning about their partner’s faith, or simply enjoying a 10-day luxury vacation together, they came away feeling like they were stronger as a couple. “One of my big takeaways from this trip was, we have our differences, and that’s okay,” said Jennifer Manago about her non-Jewish husband, David. “By the end of the trip, I felt so much more confident that we could take pieces of him and pieces of me and instill that in our kids [ages three and four at the time], and everything was going to be fine.”
Participants said the program also brought them closer together as a community. “This has been one of the most influential experiences of my life,” said Brendan Saddlemire. “I cannot remember a time when I was surrounded by such open, honest, and life-loving people. This group has truly made me feel that I could not only be accepted by the Jewish community, but that I could be loved by them, too.”
To find out more about the upcoming Honeymoon Israel trip, to register for the information sessions, or to apply today, click here.
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