After her Birthright trip to Israel during college, Short Hills, NJ-native Lindsey Rothschild knew she had to return. “I know it’s cliché, but I just really fell in love with it,” she says. “While at the Kotel, I ran into a recent Northwestern alum who was on a Masa Israel Journey program and I thought to myself, this has to be me next year.”
With the encouragement of the Hillel Israel Engagement professional at Northwestern, Lindsey enrolled in OTZMA, a ten-month service-oriented program. “When I bumped into another Northwestern student at the Kotel during my first Shabbat on OTZMA, I was really happy to have come full circle,” she says.
During her ten months in Israel, Lindsey lived and volunteered in various cities. Starting off in Ashkelon, Lindsey lived in an absorption center, took an intensive Hebrew course and volunteered in a local foster home and synagogue. After spending a few weeks studying at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, Lindsey moved to Ofakim, Metro West’s Partnership 2000 sister city.
When Lindsey arrived, she met a visiting yoga delegation from the Metro West area. Spearheaded by a woman who had participated in the first OTZMA, Lindsey, who also had experience teaching yoga, was inspired to start her own program. “I thought it would be a great thing for the community, and they responded really well to it,” says Lindsey.
Lindsey held classes for teenaged girls from the local center for troubled youth, as well as middle-aged women. “The teenagers would only participate if I put on really non-yoga pop music but after a few minutes, they’d just end up dancing,” says Lindsey. “Then I got the community’s Israeli volunteer to join and they started to get into it.”
After leaving Ofakim, Lindsey went to Tel Aviv, where she worked in the marketing department of the Women’s International Zionist Organization (WIZO), updating the English website and improving the content. “My boss really reached out to me, inviting me to her home, press conferences and WIZO-benefactor site visits throughout the country,” says Lindsey.
The highlight of Lindsey’s year was having the opportunity to take part in the weeklong Desert Queen Journey, a Jewish Agency-sponsored jeep challenge for women from Israel and the Diaspora. As part of a Masa Israel team with other participants from England, Argentina and Canada, Lindsey learned how to drive a jeep in the desert, gained biblical knowledge, took part in team-building activities and ate incredible food.
The theme of the journey was “Freedom” and two of the Journey participants were women whose brothers had been captured and killed in the Second Lebanon War. Lindsey also had the opportunity to meet Gilad Schalit’s parents.
“The whole experience was very moving,” says Lindsey, “One night, my group put on a skit about what it means to grow up outside of Israel. We were really able to have important discussions and learn about each other’s perspectives.” At the end of the Journey, the Desert Queen participants chose the Masa Israel women as the winning team.
After Lindsey returned from Otzma, she landed a job in the Jewish world. Lindsey is excited to begin a Hebrew ulpan course in New York in a week.