July 18, 2024
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Edison’s Rachel Zemble: MMY Is the Place for Me

Rachel Zemble is studying at Michlelet Mevaseret Yerushalayim in Jerusalem. She was born in Passaic, grew up in Lakewood and later moved to Edison, where her family still lives now. She’s attended Bais Yaakov, Shalom Torah Academy, RPRY and Ilan High School in Deal. Her family davens at Congregation Ahavas Yisrael in Edison.

Her next stop? Lander College for Women, unless the multiple brachot she’s gotten from various store owners to find a nice Israeli boy and stay here, since it’s the place to be, come true.

Why did you choose to study at MMY?

I chose to go to MMY because it offered many things I was looking for. The students are very committed to growth, there is a clear and tangible love of Torah and Israel and commitment to Halacha, and a very supportive environment from the teachers and among the students themselves. There is also a diverse administration, which wasn’t something that I considered when applying, but having the opportunity to learn from so many different and brilliant teachers has really been contributing to my experience here.

What kind of goals do you have for the year?

One of my main goals is to try to stay cognizant of the fact that I have the zechut to learn Torah for a year in Eretz Yisrael, and to try to use my time here to the fullest. I also want to leave this year with more clarity and the spiritual foundation to build on for the rest of my life, and better textual skills.

What have been some of the highlights of your year so far?

One highlight so far was our first trip to the Kotel. Beforehand, the director of our program, Rabbi Katz, set the tone for this event (for some of whom it was their first time visiting the Wall) with an incredibly moving speech. I myself had been to the Kotel before, but this time was really, really special.

Another highlight of my year happened during our Sukkot yom iyun. While we were waiting for our first speaker, the whole beit midrash, 99 voices strong, broke out into spontaneous song (and some in dance!), including a rendition of L’shana Haba B’Yerushalayim, which we had just so powerfully ended off Yom Kippur with the night before. It was awesome.

What kind of challenges have you faced coming to Israel?

I think one of the biggest difficulties so far was adjusting to not having my parents do everything for me. There are always MMY staff members there for you and ready to help out, which is tremendously helpful, but part of being in any seminary is doing my grocery shopping, making my dinner and washing my clothing. It’s an adjustment, but it gets much easier with time. I’ve grown to love the independence of making my own appointments, cooking my own food and accepting responsibility over my own actions and their consequences.

How has your year been different from your expectations?

Being in Israel at MMY has exceeded all of my expectations. All of the girls are so nice, I love all of my classes and teachers, and the food is fantastic. One culture shock that I had was the high standard of independence and leadership Israeli youth have. One day, I passed by what appeared to be elementary-school students assigned as crossing guards, garbed in the neon vests, literally directing traffic on a local street. High-school students are youth group leaders and entrusted with the lives of their campers on overnight trips. I thought I was impressive for going to the doctor by myself (yet here you can at the tender age of 16). I think being here at this stage in our lives and experiencing this is especially empowering.

Where is your favorite place to go for weekends/Shabbat so far?

I loved spending Shabbos in the Gush. Everyone there has a happiness and passion for God and for life that just makes you so happy to be alive and be part of it. There are also many American families who made aliyah, so it feels a lot like home, and the scenery and views are unreal.

What was a highlight of your Yamim Noraim at MMY?

A highlight of my Yamim Noraim at MMY was the Rosh Hashanah meal with my apartment. For the second night of Rosh Hashanah, every dira organizes their own mini seudah. We all pitched in with the shopping and cooking and it was a great bonding experience and just a really happy night.

Who is a teacher at MMY you feel you’ve connected especially well with (so far)?

It’s hard to pick just one teacher I feel I’ve connected with so far, but the teachers of the two Halacha classes I’m taking, Rabbi Bronstein for Hilchos Shabbos and Rabbi Lerner for Hilchos Brachos, have completely transformed the way I view Halacha. In high school, my studies consisted of copying notes off of a whiteboard, and now I get to open up and delve into the texts and sources with my chavrusas. Halacha isn’t a dry topic; it’s complex and exciting! And it is incredible learning such relevant and applicable halachos I had no idea I didn’t know.

What are you most looking forward to for the rest of the year?

I am so excited to learn more, build closer relationships with my teachers and friends and get better acquainted with my homeland (through hikes across the country, learning more of its history and interacting more with its amazing inhabitants—one of my current favorite hobbies). It just keeps getting better and, God willing, I hope it continues on this track!

By Tzvi Silver/JLNJ Israel

 

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