After attending a Jewish elementary school in Morris County, I became very active in USY when I switched to public high school. Upon graduation, I decided to defer my acceptance to Brandeis and participate in Masa Israel’s Nativ, the Conservative movement’s college leadership program. It seemed like the perfect capstone to my USY involvement.
During the first part of my year in Israel, I studied at Hebrew University and during the second part, I volunteered in Beer Sheva. At Hebrew University, I had the opportunity to take courses that truly appealed to me. Because I would not be receiving credit from Brandeis, I worked hard simply because I cared about the topics.
Towards the end of my stay in Jerusalem, I took part in an EMT training course to prepare me for my work with Magen David Adom in Beer Sheva. The training was intense and got me ready to work on the ambulance. Beyond having first-response skills, I was able to help patients feel comfortable as a result of my Hebrew fluency. I also volunteered at Chetz, a program for adults with mental disabilities, where I taught English and computer skills.
In America, I am constantly getting lost, but somehow, in Israel, I always knew where I wanted to go and figured out how to get there. One Shabbat, a few friends and I headed to the Dead Sea with tents and sleeping bags. When the sun set, same sang Kabbalat Shabbat songs in their tents, while others sat around playing guitar late into the night. We camped out among Arabs and Jews and it was a beautiful weekend.
I discovered a home for myself in Israel, and back in the United States, I stay closely connected to Israel and Judaism. During my first year at Brandeis, I served as a freshman representative on the Hillel board and sophomore year, I served as the educational coordinator. Beyond strengthening my relationship with Israel, I believe that my Masa Israel gap year in Israel made me a lot more focused. I came to college with a different level of life experience than my peers, having spent a year immersed in another culture.
On Nativ, I learned how to cherish the present and then, how to move on. I try to keep in touch as much as possible with my friends from Nativ and I look forward to visiting Israel again (maybe to see my sister who will be on Nativ next year). Right now, I am truly enjoying my English and psychology studies. I have many dreams for my future, and one is a continued relationship with Israel.