Sophie Dubitsky is studying in Midreshet Torah V’Avodah (TVA) in the Gonen neighborhood of Jerusalem. She grew up in Teaneck and attended Yeshivat Noam for elementary school and Ma’aynot for high school. Sophie’s family davens at Congregation Rinat Yisrael.
Her plans for next year? Declaring aliyah in March and entering the Israeli Defense Forces next November.
Why did you choose to attend Torah V’Avoda?
TVA is like no other program. Something unique about the program is that it consists of high intellectual level learning and intense exploration and understanding of the Land of Israel. I didn’t want to just spend my year learning in a Beit Midrash—I wanted to learn “tanach b’yad” and understand how to incorporate Torah into everyday life. Next year, I am going to be in an environment where learning is not something scheduled into my daily life, and I wanted a program that would inspire and teach me how to make learning something relevant even in the most difficult of environments.
What kind of goals do you have for your year?
One of the goals I had this year was to be able to pick up any Jewish Sefer and be able to learn it on my own. Moreover, a goal of mine was to be able to explore the land of Israel. TVA has given me the opportunity to do this by taking us to places like Amona, Ashkalon, Gush Etzion, Tel Aviv, Kiryat Shemona, Kibbutz Ein Hanatziv and so much more.
What has been one of the biggest highlights of your year so far?
There are so many to choose from! One of them was Ashkelon. We had just come back from a week-long trip to Ashkelon where we taught in English in schools. I expected going in that I would not have any impact on the children I was teaching, but by the end of the week, I had such a strong connection with the kids in the class. I also learned so much from the children! This trip inspired me and now every Tuesday I volunteer and teach English to Israeli children.
What kind of challenges have you faced coming to Israel?
I think the biggest difficulty of the year has been being away from my family. However, after being here for four months, my family and I have come up with good ways to keep in touch. Because my family is off on Sunday, it’s a great day for us all to video chat as a family. Thank God for FaceTime!
How has being here been different from your expectations? Did you feel prepared for your experience or did you have culture shock, and how so?
Coming into TVA I knew that the learning would be great and my connection to Israel will strengthen. I am so happy to say that TVA has gone beyond what I was expecting. The learning is at a whole new level for me. This did take a while for me to get used to, but at this point of the year I feel comfortable in all my classes and Chavrutot. TVA has also exposed us to all different communities and people in Israel—making the culture shock less intense. We have experienced everything from old school kibbutizim to Tel Aviv to Bnei Brak. When I first saw this on my schedule, I was a little nervous, but TVA prepares us for these adventures, making the culture shock almost non-existent.
What were some highlights of your first Chanukah in Israel?
I think one of the main highlights was being able to see all of the menorahs outdoors in the glass box. It’s so nice to be in country where instead of seeing Christmas lights and hearing Christmas music, I am surrounded by sufganiyot, menorahs and Chanukah music.
Where is your favorite place to go for weekends/Shabbat so far?
My friends make fun of me because every time I go away for Shabbat I always say “This is my favorite place, I am going to live here when I grow up!” Through school and my own plans, I have really gone all over the country! It’s so hard for me to pick a favorite, but some that I really liked are Kiryat Shemona, Gush Etzion and Arad. All of these places have exposed me to different sides of Israel, and each place I go to enhances my love for the country.
What are you most looking forward to for the rest of the year?
Over this year, I am looking forward to continuing my growth in Jewish studies. I’m also excited to continue exploring the country and am beyond excited to call myself a citizen of Israel soon!
By Tzvi Silver/JLNJ Israel