July 13, 2024
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July 13, 2024
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Naama Schwartz Is Making the Most of MMY

Naama Schwartz is studying at Michlelet Mevaseret Yerushalayim in Jerusalem. She grew up in Edison, attended RPRY and Yeshiva Shaarei Tzion for elementary school, and Bruriah for high school. Her family davens at Congregation Ohr Torah (OT).

Her next stop? Yeshiva University’s Stern College for Women.

Why did you choose to study at MMY?

I chose MMY because their approach to Torah learning aligned with my own. They offer an excellent balance of intensive textual beit medrash learning as well as fascinating and engaging teacher-led shiurim.

What kind of goals do you have for the year?

My primary goal is to completely devote an entire year to Torah study. I learned an incredible amount of Torah in elementary school and high school, but there were only few hours in the day allotted to do so. This year, in contrast, my entire day revolves around passionately learning and gaining Torah knowledge, simply for its own sake. I also hope to acquire the skills to be able to learn independently in the future, when I won’t have the opportunity to consistently sit in a classroom under a teacher’s guidance.

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

One highlight of the year so far was Rosh Hashanah in MMY. I was a little nervous about how different it would be here compared to the Rosh Hashanah I’m used to at home: not being with family, the different customs, different tunes during davening, even just sitting near different people in shul. As it turned out, I really enjoyed Yom Tov. The hours in shul flew by because the davening was so beautiful and moving with new tunes that I enjoyed. The “three day” Yom Tov also provided plenty of bonding time in different settings between us students who had only recently met for the first time. We davened together, ate meals together, learned together and spent time getting to know each other. It was an excellent way to start off this year.

Another highlight of the year so far was MMY’s long weekend up north that included a tiyul in the Galil and a shabbaton in Tzfat. We started off the tiyul bright and early with a lively hike down Har Arbel. A good portion of the mountain didn’t have much ledge to walk down, but don’t worry—there were a few rungs and ropes to hang onto while trying not to look down the side of the mountain! We continued our day learning about the importance of Israel’s agriculture hands-on. We were given the opportunity to help pick olives on a farm, but since olive trees can grow pretty tall, we used the seemingly strange technique of whacking the trees’ branches with sticks for the olives to come off. And it worked! I really enjoyed both of these activities, but one aspect that I especially enjoyed was that members of our faculty joined us in everything we were doing. It was so nice to connect with them in a completely different environment. We ended off the day in Tzfat, in Rav Yosef Caro’s shul, where we were led in a beautiful and moving kumzitz filled with singing and dancing. It definitely put everyone in the mindset for what would also be a beautiful Shabbos together.

Who is a teacher at MMY who you connect with especially well?

I have huge amounts of respect for all of my teachers, but I especially look up to Rabbi Lerner, MMY’s rosh beit medrash. He is very down to earth with his students and wants to help us succeed. He acknowledges every question or comment as legitimate, and thinks through his answer before responding; I really respect that about him.

Which is one of your favorite classes at MMY?

It’s difficult to choose, since I really enjoy many of my classes at MMY, but one of my favorites is Hilchot Shabbos with Rabbi Abell. There’s something special about delving into the texts on my own in order to truly take Halacha and how I live my life into my own hands. The class always seems to end too quickly, because Rabbi Abell makes the topic engaging and exciting. I also enjoy Mrs. Moskowitz’s class, which delves into well-known commentaries of Rashi on Chumash, using an array of mefarshei Rashi.

What kind of challenges have you faced coming to Israel?

I’m a pretty big homebody, so my biggest concern before coming to Israel was homesickness. Thank God, MMY did a great job settling us in and starting classes right away, so there wasn’t really time to be homesick. I’m also very fortunate to have a lot of family who live in Israel, so even though my immediate family is 6,000 miles away, I still have family here where I can feel at home.

How has your transition to living in Jerusalem been? Do you find it to be very different from where you grew up in Edison?

MMY is located on Derech Chevron, a busy main street close to the center of Jerusalem, where cars and buses do not slow down or stop honking at any point, day or night. The constant hustle and bustle is definitely different from my relatively quiet cul-de-sac at the end of a dead-end road in Edison. Although, the same cul-de-sac also houses Ohr Torah and RPRY, so it does have its share of liveliness, but not to the same extent. The constant action and noise has definitely taken some getting used to, but it also just adds to the MMY and Israel experience.

How has your year been different from your expectations?

I didn’t realize until I got to MMY how diverse the student body actually is. It’s refreshing to have a group of students from a wide array of communities, backgrounds and hashkafot.

In general, though, the expectations I constructed over the past year before actually getting to Israel, whether positive or negative, have not usually been the case in reality. It was definitely an important and eye-opening lesson I had to learn: be open to everything, because the conclusions you can jump to so quickly are usually done so mistakenly.

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

It’s kind of funny, but I haven’t been anywhere twice for Shabbos yet. There are just, thank God, so many places to go to! Between teachers, family, friends, and even family or friends of friends, my weekends have all been in different places. That being said, I do especially enjoy spending Shabbos with my relatives who live here. I don’t think there are many people who can compare to family.

What is one of your favorite parts of living in Jerusalem?

Making the city my own by traveling through it. Nothing compares to the feeling of confidently walking out of the MMY doors, knowing exactly where I’m going and how to get there. My favorite part of walking the streets of Jerusalem and riding the city’s buses is to just take a step back and observe. There are people of all different ages, backgrounds, communities, beliefs and cultures rushing or leisurely traveling around to a whole array of places, but there’s something that connects all of them—they all live in this beautiful and holy city of Jerusalem.

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

I’m looking forward to learning more and building and strengthening more relationships with my peers and educators. I’ve really been enjoying so far, so the way forward should be just the same!

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