July 17, 2024
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Midreshet Torat Chesed Is Motivating Rachel Berk

Rachel Berk is studying at Midreshet Torat Chesed in Netanya. She grew up in East Brunswick, attended RPRY for elementary school and Kushner for high school. In the summers she attended Camp Nageela. Her family davened at Young Israel, where she was a youth group leader for many years. They recently made aliyah to Elkana.

Her next stop? Kibbutz Ulpan Sde Eliyahu, then either drafting into the IDF or Sherut Leumi.

Why did you choose to study at MTC?

I am currently at Midreshet Torat Chessed, located in Netanya. I chose to study here because this program sounded extremely unique to me. At MTC we learn in the morning, and in the afternoon we volunteer with children in a foster home (Bet Elazraki). I knew I wanted to have a meaningful gap-year experience full of growth, that I wasn’t interested in sitting in a table learning from morning until night and didn’t necessarily need to be Jerusalem. I also feel my best when I am doing chesed for others, and didn’t want to give that up this year. MTC has been the best of both worlds to me because it gave me a platform to learn and enhance my religiosity, but also to do chesed on a daily basis and grow in a multitude of ways.

What kind of goals do you have for the year?

Going into this year, I had many goals. I wanted answers to why we do what we do, to understand what it means to be a Jew. I grew up in a Modern Orthodox environment and, although I observe and learn a lot, I wanted to broaden my knowledge and understanding of Judaism. I also had the goal of giving back to Am Yisrael, and therefore wanted to volunteer with children each day.

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

One of one my most inspiring/exciting moments of the year happen each day. When I volunteer with my children, and one of them smiles at me, hugs me, or even just wants to play a game with me, it is an incredible feeling. I see that I am making a difference in someone else’s life. That is something that will stay with me forever. I have learned so much from my children and look forward to spending time with them everyday.

What kind of challenges have you faced coming to Israel?

Considering that my family made aliyah, my biggest difficulty of the year was knowing that this is final. My seminary friends all left America knowing this was temporary: they were coming for a year and will then return to their house, their bed, and their hometown. I knew I had to learn the language and get adjusted to the culture because I won’t be going back to America. Although it can be difficult, it is such a blessing to work hard to become integrated into Israel.

How has your year been different from your expectations?

Being in Israel is different from my expectations because although Israelis can be rude and impatient they are soft on the inside. Israel is the only place where I truly feel the strength and unity of Am Yisrael. Everyone is so hospitable, and within a second you know they will be there for you no matter how big or small.

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

Our Netzer Chazani shabbaton has been the most inspiring Shabbat of my entire life. After being evacuated from Gaza, many of the residents originally from Netzer Chazani (in Gaza) redeveloped their community in central Israel and renamed it Netzer Chazani. Although they have experienced tremendous hardships, they welcomed us with such warmth. We heard speakers and were hosted at the residents’ homes. There we ate with them and heard about their story. Their emunah in Hashem is still so strong, despite the tragic events that happened to them. They are so incredibly strong. I became close with my hosts and am planning on going back to them throughout the year.

Who is a teacher at MTC you connect to especially well?

A teacher I connect well with is Rav Baruch Boudilovsky. He is an incredibly inspiring mentor, extremely intelligent, real, and motivating. He is one of my favorite teachers and chavruta partners. He is amazing to go to for absolutely everything. I really enjoy learning from him and his views on life and Judaism.

Which is one of your favorite classes at MTC?

One of my favorite classes is Mesilat Yesharim (The Path of the Just), which explains the proper way to live life. It goes through different middot and how to obtain them. It is so realistic and truly impacts my everyday life.

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

Although the year is more than halfway over, we still have so much to look forward to. I am looking forward to experiencing so much more of Israel. I am excited to see Pesach, Yom Ha’atzmaut, etc., being celebrated in Israel. I am also excited to continue growing as an individual and to reflect on my progress at the end of the year. Lastly, I am excited to continue learning and maintaining/improving relationships with my children, friends and teachers.

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