Ari Brickman

Young Judaea Year Course
Name: Ari Brickman
Hometown: Skokie, IL
High School: Chicagoland Jewish High School
College: The Joint Program with Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary
Why did you decided to take a gap year in Israel?
I took a gap year for many reasons to be honest. But, the two main reasons are:
1) I wanted a year in which I could find out who I was. I needed to give myself an opportunity to mature in a way that I knew was not possible to do while in college.
2) I had been to Israel previously but all of my trips had been short (a month at the longest). I loved being in Israel and wanted an opportunity to explore it and to immerse myself in the culture.
Why did you choose Young Judaea Year Course?
I chose Year Course because it offered everything I was looking for. Not only did the program offer an array of options, but also the people that chose the program were very diverse. I had the opportunity to truly customize my year. Year Course gave me the ability to really explore and not to be restricted in what I did.
What was the best part of the year?
The best part of the year would have to be the community volunteering. I lived in Bat Yam and volunteered at a school for kids with special needs. I fell in love with the school, the kids, and the city. In addition to that, Bat Yam was a 20-minute bus ride to Tel Aviv and we had the ability to go there whenever we wanted!
What was your most memorable moment in Israel?
My most memorable moment in Israel was during my last week there. We were given one day off from volunteering to explore Israel and do something that we wanted to do before we left. I went with a group of friends to see Rosh Hanikra and then afterwards we ended up visiting Achzibland. What was special is that Eli Avivi, the president of Achzibland, drove my friends and I into the city where we needed to catch our train and spent 3 hours telling us all about his life, why he started Achzibland, and other random stories. Eli, while a bit crazy, had an absolutely fascinating story to tell. He truly exemplified the typical Israeli, who is hospitable and wants to share their love of the land and their story with others.
What was the greatest challenge you overcame while in Israel? 
Learning to live in a foreign country without the support system that I was used to having back home was quite a challenge. While I made a great group of friends quickly and we relied on one another to get through challenging times it was still a culture shock. From learning how to go grocery shopping in a foreign country to how you are supposed to act while in public was all very different from what I was used to.
What were the best skills I learned while in Israel?
I learned to be independent and more than that I learned about the person that I wanted to be. Being in Israel for a year, traveling and volunteering gave me insight into the type of life I wanted to be leading and the type of person I wanted to be. I grew up in a way I didn’t think was possible, and learned how to take control of my life.
How do you stay connected to Israel today?
Israel is still a huge part of my life. I am on the pro-Israel group on campus and advocate for Israel on an almost daily basis. In addition I have tried to share my love of Israel with others. I am currently the Israel Educator at Camp Chi in Wisconsin. I also help Young Judaea with recruitment for Year Course because of what a huge impact it had on me.
What is your favorite Israeli song?
Either Mi’mamakim or At Yafa.