Shoshi Burstyn is studying at Midreshet Torah V’Avodah in Gonen, Jerusalem. She grew up in Teaneck, attended Yavneh Academy for elementary school and Frisch for high school. Her family davens at Congregation Rinat Yisrael. In the summers she’s attended Moshava Indian Orchard and Moshava Ennismore, including as a counselor at the latter more recently.
Her next stop? Binghamton University.
Why did you choose to study at TVA?
MTVA’s ideals are very similar to my own. MTVA values women’s leadership and stresses the importance of women learning. This helps foster a beautiful combination of open-mindedness and high-level learning.
MTVA has really cool traveling experiences. We go on very meaningful trips where we learn to love the land through experiencing the land. For example, we traveled to the Golan for three days on a leadership journey where we were able to connect to the physical land of Israel by disconnecting from our phones, and just doing activities such as hiking and farming. We traveled to southern Israel, learned about the importance of developing the South and taught English to the children for a week. It was a very challenging yet meaningful experience.
Whether it be Gemara, machshava or Tanach, MTVA really has the best to offer no matter what the topic. If someone doesn’t like the classes that MTVA is offering in a given time slot, there are so many alternatives. We can take MATAN classes (the Beit Midrash we are based in); set up a chavruta with a friend, a teacher, one of the women who learns in Matan; or could have an independent study and learn on our own. MTVA really lets us build and customize our schedules to however we want them to be. We can have as many classes and as many chavrutot as we want.
What kind of goals do you have for the year?
Going into the year, I really wanted to grow spiritually, religiously and connect to the land of Israel. I also wanted to create meaningful relationships with my peers, teachers and rebbeim.
What have been some of the highlights of your year so far?
The general atmosphere in Israel has been a highlight. People here are so warm and welcoming. On a shabbaton, my friend and I got separated from the group, and a complete stranger offered to walk us to the shul, even though it was 20 minutes away. I have been invited to many random people’s weddings and bar mitzvahs.
What kind of challenges have you faced coming to Israel?
I miss my family a lot. It’s really hard not seeing them every day. I’m very thankful to modern technology like WhatsApp and FaceTime.
How has your year been different from your expectations?
I experienced a lot of cultural shock. I remember going into a grocery and not really recognizing most of the brands and labels. The people are also a lot more aggressive than what I was used to. It was a fight to get apples.
Where is your favorite place to go for weekends/Shabbat so far?
My favorite Shabbat was when TVA took us to Ramat Gan, where we prayed with the Ethiopian community, had Kiddush with them where we were able to try their food. We also listened to Rav Shalom Shalom, who told us about his experience moving to Israel from Ethiopia, along with the struggles he had when he got here.
I also love going to my cousin Michal Aiash in Tel Aviv.
Who is a teacher at TVA you connect to especially well?
Rabbanit Nechama Goldman Barash, my Talmud teacher, is someone I connect with very well. We’re learning Masechet Kiddushin, and she is able to present very complex information that we are learning in a very understandable way. She is also very feminist and open-minded, so learning Gemara from her perspective has been eye-opening. I can now accept things within Judaism that were challenging for me to reconcile with before.
Which is one of your favorite classes at TVA?
My favorite class is definitely Human Nature in Sefer Bereishit, with Sara Tessler. Our class is modeled after Leon Kass’s book “The Beginning of Wisdom: Reading Genesis.” The class takes a very rationalist approach to Sefer Bereishit and brings newfound deepness and meaning to stories that most of us still viewed from a childish, story-like perspective. We also had Leon Kass come speak to us, which is pretty crazy. He gave us a shiur on creation, then he opened up to us for conversations and questions, which was a tremendous opportunity.
What are you most looking forward to for the rest of the year?
Exploring and seeing the rest of Eretz Yisrael! Our next trip is ten days long and we are going to Kibbutz Ein Hanatziv. I can’t wait to experience a lifestyle so different from my own.
By JLNJ Staff