July 21, 2024
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Gap Year, Pandemic Edition

(Courtesy of Bnei Akiva) If you asked Rachel Gelb, a Frisch alumna from Teaneck, currently in her gap year in Israel at Midreshet Torah V’Avodah (MTVA), if this is what she envisioned when applying to programs a year ago, she would respond with a resounding “NO.” She would never have imagined flying to Israel in a mask, being put up in bidud (quarantine) in a resort near the Dead Sea her first two weeks, and learning Torah socially distanced on porches in a courtyard.

Let’s just say it’s not what she envisioned, but the on-again, off-again lockdown is also something she’s come to appreciate. “With the goal of strengthening my leadership skills, chesed opportunities, and connecting to myself and the land of Israel before heading off to Stern College, not having as many external distractions is actually freeing in a way,” explained Rachel.

“It also doesn’t hurt that our Midrasha was able to secure, renovate and move into new state-of-the-art facilities with a brand new beit midrash and apartment-style dorms this year. The all-in-one building allows me to quickly run from the Beit Midrash to my apartment to prepare lunch and back down again without missing a beat.”

Despite the challenges of COVID-19, MTVA was able to pivot to a self-contained campus—both to accommodate the need for more isolation in a COVID-19 reality and also to upgrade to a beautiful all-in-one space with 150% more capacity.

“One of the things I am most grateful for is the self-contained, spacious beit midrash, which allows us the opportunity to truly make the place our own; everyone has a set makom enabling us to feel at home. Additionally, we can easily access the beit midrash even in case of a nationwide lockdown,” said Mia Labovitz, a Maayanot alumna from Highland Park. “In a time when many are limited to their apartments, I am grateful to have so many safe shared communal spaces including a chadar ochel, classrooms, student lounges, even an exercise room and beautiful outdoor space where I can be free to learn and socialize safely.”

The new campus also houses MTVA’s parent organization, Bnei Akiva of the United States’ and Canada’s Israel-based offices, including departments for summer programs including Mach

Hach and the Moshava Ba’ir day camp and Moshava sleepaway networks. Eight apartments will also serve as a center for the Bnei Akiva community and TVA
 alumni.

The campus will also host the Summer in Jerusalem program, an integrated internship/beit midrash experience for college students, in partnership with OU/JLIC. As Rachel said, “It’s exciting to be able to share the space with other programs in the Bnei Akiva network. It’s great getting to meet new people and staying connected with many of the camps we grew up going to, but know when necessary we can still stay safe within the many spacious spaces on campus.”

For more information about Midreshet Torah V’Avodah visit www.mtvaisrael.org  and www.bneiakiva.org.

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