Story #7: Louis Francia

She is full of love,
she makes people laugh,
she is very cheesy,
and she does everything she can to make sure you are alright.
This is @Jennifer.Shuman.13 ,
my life & future wife,
my oinks.
We almost didn’t go on this Birthright trip in December 2019. Email was ready, all saved as a draft, ready to be sent, and that would’ve been it.
Her constant battles with her neurological/functional movement disorder (she struggles with life daily because of her disability) has once again pushed her limits when our husky Ryley, was diagnosed with bone cancer. We were stuck in the middle with so many questions.
This would’ve been her second attempt for applying for Birthright (first time was when she was 18-19 and her life was still normal, no disability), so not to go, after working so hard to get on this trip (3 doctor approvals, phone and video interviews, applying for a Shadow) would have been devastating, especially because she needed this trip more than ever to seek and get the answers from G-d with what happened with her life, aside from wanting to experience the true meaning of being a Jew. But, WHAT IF? What if she finally goes on this trip, will Ryley’s life go downhill… for 10-12 days …that’s 12 hours away on a plane. This ate her alive to the point that she felt guilt for leaving him to be able to find herself. But he held on, and we made sure to check in on him daily. Sadly at this time of writing, Ryley has passed (February 2020) and he gets to forever play without pain.
It’s been nearly 6 months since we came and went. Birthright was life-changing, not only for her but for me as well. My name is Louis @lifewithlouis , and I am a Catholic.
From conversations at the Kibbutz, walking in the streets of Tzfat, learning at the Peres centre, experiencing our first camel ride, experiencing her “Ah Ha” moment biking in the desert, hiking up the Masada, going for a swim in the Dead Sea, having conversations with the local Israelis, learning about Ben Gurion, having our hearts and eyes opened up at Yad Vashem, divulging at Machne Yehuda Market, getting a matching tattoo in Tel Aviv, or my personal favourite, to get a better understanding as our group welcomed me as I lit the Chanukah candle as Jenn shared her life story.
To name a few memorable moments was fascinating and a life learning/changing experience. Now with Covid-19 putting the world on pause, it really makes our time spent in Israel even more valuable and memorable.
What does it mean to be Jewish? What we would say to that? Go on a CIE Birthright trip, and go from there. It will truly change your life.
Here’s to our new friends who are now our family. Thank you @ciebirthright @barakberkovich , @eisensarah , Paul Sileika, @roi_shemer and Avner Paer. We are forever grateful for this life-changing experience.

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