May 20, 2024
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Sophia Stepansky: Embracing Am Yisrael

This week’s Spotlight Israel features Sophia Stepansky. Sophia is studying in Michlelet Yerushalayim (MMY) in the Baka neighborhood of Jerusalem. She is from Passaic, New Jersey, and attended Yeshiva Beis Hillel for elementary school and Bruriah for high school. Her family davens at the Young Israel of Passaic.

Her plans for next year? Service for Am Yisrael in Medinat Yisrael through Sherut Leumi.

Why did you choose to learn at MMY?

I chose to study here because I wanted a seminary that was open-minded and had high-level textual learning, which MMY has plenty to offer.

What kind of goals do you have for your year?

My main goals for the year are to gain a lot of Torah knowledge, acquire skills to enable me to continue learning Jewish text on my own later in life, when I won’t have the comfort of the four walls of a classroom, and to be a more cognizant person of my surroundings.

What has been one of the biggest highlights of your year so far?

On Wednesdays I go to Midreshet Lindenbaum and I take a class with Israelis there. I was able to follow the entire class (despite the fact I am not fluent in Hebrew) and I even offered a possible answer (spoken in Hebrew), which was a very personally exciting moment.

Additionally, I love being exposed to teachers who are likeminded with me and having deep discussions about Judaism with them.

What kind of challenges have you faced coming to Israel?

I’m the youngest in my family, and there is a large age gap between me and my siblings. Therefore, I grew up in a very quiet environment. Seminary is very different by virtue of the fact that 80 girls are living in the same building. Finding quiet isn’t a given, rather you need to seek it out. One of my main challenges has been making a conscious effort to find and to create alone time.

How has being here been different from your expectations? Did you feel prepared for your experience or did you have a culture shock, and how so?

I was pleasantly surprised by the vast diversity MMY has to offer throughout the staff and student body. Thank God, I feel well prepared for learning in midrasha and being more independent than I was in high school.

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

It’s hard to say that I have a favorite place to go to for Shabbat, because every city has something to add, but the phenomenon that I’ve had the privilege to see rarely any cars driving on Shabbat in Bet Shemesh and the Gush is mind-blowing.

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

I am looking forward to staying in many different communities for Shabbat, which will enable me to hear more perspectives on life that I haven’t necessarily been exposed to before. I am also really excited to review all that I have learned, to solidify the information in my mind!

How was your first Thanksgiving so far from home?

This was my first year not having a Thanksgiving celebration. It didn’t bother me at all because I’m in Israel, so it barely came into my mind to do something.

By Tzvi Silver/JLNJ Israel

 

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