Charlotte Aronoff is currently thriving at Midreshet Tiferet. She lives in Englewood and graduated from SAR. Following her year in Israel she plans to continue pushing herself at Stern College for Women. Her family davens at Congregation Ahavat Torah in Englewood.
Why were you drawn to Tiferet and what makes it different from the other midrashot you were considering?
I picked Tiferet because I wanted something different. I wanted to make new friends and meet new people. To do something outside my comfort zone. This year is all about getting out of your comfort zone and figuring out who you want to be.
The environment here is very homey. Everyone wants to help each other. I remember the first week was really overwhelming. I didn’t understand where everything was, and a girl offered to help me buy groceries. It was the most thoughtful thing.
What were your expectations going into Tiferet and how did they differ from reality?
I didn’t realize how hard the transition was gonna be. It was scary to be away from home. I had to figure out how to fend for myself.
In the beginning I didn’t want to put myself out there and make new friends. I was so overwhelmed by everything, but I ended up meeting the most incredible girls. I honestly think the friendships I made will last a lifetime.
What was one goal you had coming into Tiferet?
I’ve been following Halacha because my parents were telling me to do it, not because I understood it. I wanted to know why I was doing what I was doing.
So I’ve been reading different seforim and learning from my chavrutas and teachers. I finally understand the reasoning behind Halacha and can see it from my own point of view. It’s special we have that opportunity here.
That’s awesome! What’s been your favorite Halacha to learn?
I never knew women were obligated to daven Mincha. I’ve since taken that on and it’s been great for me. By taking place in the afternoon, Mincha allows you to carry tefillah with you and have your whole day be involved in davening.
Is there a particular teacher you connect with?
Definitely my rakezet, Mrs. Devori Weicholz. We learn once a week at her house. I feel like she’s taken me in. She’s always listening and invested in my life and my growth.
What’s your favorite class?
Mrs. Schneider’s middos class is amazing. It’s about how to become a better person. Every day we learn one idea that’ll improve your character. You can actually see the growth develop gradually throughout the year.
What do you enjoy outside of seminary?
I love visiting my sister and nephew in Jerusalem. I also like hanging out with people. Monday nights I usually meet a friend for dinner and Friday mornings I’ll meet someone for breakfast. Sometimes I’ll even have a friend with me running errands.
What’s been the best tiyul you’ve gone on?
Eilat was great. The water there is the bluest I’ve ever seen. I got there and my jaw dropped. We went boating, tubing and swimming. We also did a group hike and went camel riding in the desert. We were all rolling down the sand dunes. It was so much fun, and the views were incredible.
It was a great bonding experience for everyone. Eilat exudes good energy and it made us appreciate Israel more.
Where was your favorite place to go for Shabbat?
Tiferet took us on a shabbaton to Tzfat. We went to the highest point of Tzfat and meditated for 20 minutes to have conversations with Hashem. When you’re left alone with your thoughts it’s like you’re with Hashem. I think the experience opened up everyone’s eyes. Afterwards, we all sang together. I don’t even love singing, but it was beautiful. It was an empowering and holy weekend.
What do you love the most about being in Israel for the year?
Everything holds so much history. Even the random hills outside somehow connect to the Torah. It’s different than learning in high school. In Israel, you’re learning in the land where these things happened. You can literally go outside and see the place where an event occurred. It makes it feel real.
I know it’s still early in the year, but what’s been the highlight so far?
Rosh Hashanah was really nice. We were only two weeks into seminary and it was the first holiday away from home. I remember the beginning was hard, but that night we all hung out together and the next day I had an incredibly impactful davening. I took the time to read the English and the Hebrew so I could understand what I was saying. It was the best davening I had in a long time.
How do you think Tiferet fits your own outlook and personality?
I think everyone here has a heart of gold. We’re all friendly and welcoming. That’s the way my parents raised me: to be a giver, to be someone who makes others feel good about themselves, and to follow the Torah. All of those ideals are emulated here.
How do you think this year will prepare you for the rest of your life?
This year will teach me who I want to be for the rest of my life. I’m going to figure out how I’m going to raise my children and what I want my house to look like.
What would your advice be to an incoming Shana Aleph student?
Don’t expect it to be easy in the beginning. It’s a huge transition, but once you get through the hard part, it becomes such an incredible year. You have the opportunity to figure out who you want to be. The opportunity to create relationships that will last a lifetime. Focus on yourself and take the time to figure out who you want to be in the future.
What’s something you’re learning right now?
I’ve always wondered if I do my best to be good, why do bad things happen? I’m reading “Questioning the Answers,” and the author’s perspective is that one of the reasons Hashem puts us in bad situations is so we reach out to him and remember we’re not alone. Hashem only does good, meaning everything that happens to you happens for a reason. The reason could be because Hashem wants you to remember he’s with you or because it’ll result in something better in the future.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I’d just emphasize the transition isn’t easy. I had a rough start. I constantly asked, “Why is Hashem putting me through this?” Then it hit me: It was to tell me I can do this. That I’m strong. That Hashem is here for me.
I realized I had to get out of this slump. I needed to have a positive mindset and push myself to go outside my comfort zone. After that everything ended up working out. You just have to push yourself.
David Deutsch of Woodmere, New York, is a Shana Bet student currently studying at Migdal HaTorah in Modi’in.