Honeymoon Israel: "One of the best experiences of my life."
Andrew and Dudley Deshommes-Kohls’ calendars are full: Shabbat taco night. Reminiscing over Shakshouka for brunch. Shabbat-hopping at synagogues across the Twin Cities.
The couple is part of an active, local, close-knit Jewish community; the type many spend decades cultivating. But Andrew and Dudley are young, and their community is new. They traveled across the world—to Israel— to find them.
The Deshommes-Kohlses traveled to Israel with Honeymoon Israel, a nine-day trip for newly married couples largely subsidized by the Minneapolis Jewish Federation and the St. Paul Jewish Federation. HMI encourages interfaith couples, couples with a partner who has converted, Jewish couples, and LGBTQ couples to apply. Andrew and Dudley, who have been married for three years, heard about the program through their rabbi.
“When I got the e-mail from Rabbi Weininger I thought, ‘Hmmm… will Andrew like this?’” said Dudley.
“Dudley convinced me to sign up,” confirms Andrew. “I had passed up on other opportunities to go to Israel as a kid. But this trip topped everything I could have imagined.”
Andrew grew up in the Twin Cities Jewish community and was eager to raise his future children Jewish. But when it came to the rituals and traditions of organized religion, he was noncommittal. Take Chanukah, for example — Andrew wasn’t a fan.
Then he experienced Chanukah in Israel.
“It was so interesting to see their version,” he gushed. In Israel, Chanukah wasn’t about presents. “It was a celebration of light, the way it was meant to be. I can’t wait to celebrate it at home this year and make it the holiday I’ve always wanted but didn’t know you could have.”
Andrew and Dudley’s experience covered the entire spectrum of emotions. One morning, the group began their day engaged in taxing, difficult discussions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, then ended the day at Yad Vashem.
“That was the most emotionally, psychologically, physically draining day I’ve ever had,” said Dudley. At dinner that night, he and Andrew processed their emotions with others on the trip. Moments like that one bonded the group and ensured they would stay connected upon returning home.
Throughout their nine days in Israel, Dudley and Andrew patched together their new Jewish community. Because they hadn’t seen themselves in the Jewish community, it was hard for them to truly feel part of it. Bonding with others on the trip who felt similarly proved that Judaism came in all shapes and sizes.
“We needed this trip to come back with confidence. To say this is who we are,” said Dudley.
“We believe in this trip,” said Andrew. “You go to Israel, you experience it, you take what you want from it. Then you come home and build the community that works for you.”
“I got more comfortable with wanting to go to synagogue. Dudley got more comfortable going by himself. And now we’ve got this group of people we can go with any time—and we didn’t even know they existed,” says Andrew.
Honeymoon Israel is a Jewish organization that provides trips to Israel for couples with at least one Jewish partner. Each trip includes 20 diverse couples from the same city – couples with one Jewish partner, couples where both partners were born Jewish and couples where one partner is converted/Jew-by-choice. Honeymoon Israel MSP is supported by the Minneapolis Jewish Federation and the St. Paul Jewish Federation.