Taglit-Birthright Israel has named Molly Dodd of Belleville as its milestone 500,000th participant.
In a ceremony in Tel Aviv this week, Dodd was greeted by Charles Bronfman and Michael Steinhardt, the billionaire co-founders of Taglit-Birthright Israel. She was taking part in a Discover Tel Aviv Event, which brought together 3,000 participants for three days of exploring high-tech, fashion, and culture in Israel’s largest city.
Dodd, who moved to Belleville after graduating from Southeastern University in 2013, works as a digital department coordinator for Fox News Channel. Even though her mother was Jewish, Dodd had no Jewish affiliation or involvement growing up outside of Tampa. Following the death of her parents, she has taken steps to rediscover her heritage, according to a Birthright news release. She hoped to select a Hebrew name and celebrate her bat mitzvah while traveling through Israel for the first time on Birthright.
“My mother’s Judaism was not talked about when I was young,” said Dodd. “Two springs ago, I had gone to a garage sale in the Orthodox Jewish community near my home and mentioned I was curious to learn more about Judaism. The woman in charge listened to my story, and concluded with delight, ‘If your mother was Jewish, and your grandmother was Jewish, then you are Jewish.’ It opened up a new world for me to discover.”
Taglit-Birthright Israel offers free, 10-day trips to Israel for Jewish adults between the ages of 18 to 26. Its 500,000 particpants hail from more than 66 countries and from all 50 U.S. states