May 30, 2024
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Shira Waltuch Loves Learning at Nishmat

Shira Waltuch is studying at The Jeanie Schottenstein Center for Advanced Torah Studies for Women (Nishmat) in the Pat neighborhood of Jerusalem. She grew up initially in Riverdale, moved to Teaneck at the age of 3, attended RYNJ for elementary school and Ma’ayanot for high school. She’s attended Camp Mesorah and Camp Nesher in the summers, as well as NCSY GIVE and, most recently, worked as a lifeguard at Moshava Ba’Ir. Her family davens at Rinat Yisrael.

Her next stop? Unsure at this point, though all options are being considered.

Why did you choose to study at Nishmat?

This is actually a funny story. Nishmat was not on my seminary list, but when I was visiting seminaries in Israel last year, I also visited my cousin who was learning in Nishmat. After coming to Nishmat last year and looking into it more afterward, I realized that Nishmat was really the perfect place for me. I loved hearing about the intense, in-depth learning and the students who are friendly, outgoing and also serious about their learning.

What kind of goals do you have for the year?

Some of my goals for the year are to enjoy learning lishma, improve my Hebrew and to learn all of Tanach.

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

One highlight of my year so far was when my program did a sunrise tiyul in Eilat. We started hiking up a mountain when it was still pitch dark outside, and by the time we reached the top the sun was rising. It was amazing to be able to stand on a mountaintop and see the land from that point of view. Emunah Lapid, a Tanach teacher at Nishmat, led the tiyul and explained the historical significance of the area. Viewing Israel through the lense of Tanach and biblical geography is something I really connected with.

What kind of challenges have you faced coming to Israel?

The most difficult part of this year has been the language barrier in classes and when communicating with Israelis in the midrasha. The Israelis definitely make us feel comfortable and encourage us to ask when we don’t understand something or don’t know how to say a word in Hebrew. By being immersed in Hebrew every day, I can already see the difference in my comfort level since the beginning of the year, and hopefully it will continue to improve!

How has your year been different from your expectations?

Before coming to Nishmat, I was nervous about it being an Israeli midrasha and did not know what to expect. The transition was easier than expected because of the unbelievable support from the program and faculty. The American and Israeli students also helped make adjusting as smooth as possible.

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

I have a lot of family in Israel and I love spending Shabbat with them. It’s fun to be able to spend time with relatives whom I haven’t been able to see very often, since we grew up far away from each other. Having so much family here definitely makes Israel feel more like home.

Which is one of your favorite classes at Nishmat?

I love so many of my classes at Nishmat, it’s hard to choose just one! I really enjoy Rav Avi Ross’s Halacha seder on Hilchot Shabbat. We learn the sources starting from the Gemara and going all the way down to practical halacha. It is a very methodological way of learning Halacha and I love seeing how the halacha progresses and is discussed throughout all the sources. Another amazing class is Simi Peters’ Midrash class where we learn midrashim by reading the text inside and analyzing each piece. I have learned many midrashim throughout elementary and high school, but never inside with this much depth before. The class is always eye-opening and thought-provoking.

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

One of my favorite things about being in Israel is being able to explore and travel to places I have never been before. I’m really looking forward to continue finding places I’ve never been to and having unbelievable experiences.

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