May 26, 2024
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May 26, 2024
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Yael Sabo Is Inspired at MMY

Yael Sabo is studying at Michlelet Mevaseret Yerushalayim (MMY) in the Baka neighborhood of Jerusalem. She was born and grew up in Bergenfield, and attended RYNJ in River Edge for elementary school and Bruriah for high school. Her family davens at Beth Abraham and Ohr HaTorah in Bergenfield.

Her next stop? She’s not sure yet, but she hopes to be in Israel.

Why did you choose MMY? What’s unique about it?

I chose MMY for multiple reasons: It was a combination of everything you think of in a seminary, so for me it was the learning style, the types of girls who come here, the diversity in the staff, and the overall positive environment. I remember I had a friend who came to MMY a few years ago, and I was asking about her roommates and she just described everyone simply as nice, good people and I thought, “Why not put myself with good people?” They have really incredible classes here, spanning from Tanach to Gemara to classes about modern poskim, as well as machshava and tefillah classes too.

What kind of student do you think would attend your program?

Girls who are motivated, growth-oriented, and want to experience a positive learning environment. Everyone here is a driven person; it’s an intellectual place, and MMY really focuses on the sources.

What kind of goals do you have for your year?

I came in interested in building strong connections with girls here and the teachers, connections that are long-lasting. I was also interested in just gaining more—learning more Torah and being able to understand more about myself and more about where I want to go further in life. There’s a lot I’ve already gained from the Jewish education I have, and I was interested in coming to MMY because I want to go further in my learning and apply more to my day-to-day—learn more Halacha, more Tanach, and have a broader perspective.

What are you most excited to learn for your year?

The things that I never learned. Like, I took a class for a semester on Ezra, Nechemia and Daniel, and that isn’t really touched upon in many high schools. There are a lot of classes here that are really cool; like, I’m taking a class right now on Vayikra, and we’re looking at it in-depth. I feel like I’m able to go back and understand and learn new ideas about a story I’d previously learned.

What is your favorite thing to learn?

I like to learn machshava, but also a lot of Tanach. I think the cool thing about learning Tanach in Israel is that you learn it in the Tanach and then you see it around you. I was in a class where we were learning about Yehoshua, and then that week we were out in Israel and we saw what we’d been talking about in class with our own eyes.

What has been the biggest highlight of your year so far?

That’s a tough one, because there are so many things that I could say. For me, a personal highlight was last week, when we ran a learn-a-thon and auction to fundraise money for the Gush Katif Kallah fund. I helped in organizing it and we surpassed our fundraising goal. Students got involved by offering different prizes; teachers offered prizes; we didn’t just recite, but we learned all of Sefer Tehillim with meforshim, and it was amazing to see it all come to fruition.

Our Chanukah programming was also really incredible! The school had something planned for every night—between menorah making, a chagiga, sufganiyot decorating with your dira, a roommates lip sync battle, our annual intense dreidel-spinning competition. It was unreal!

What kind of challenges have you faced coming to Israel?

I think there’s an adjustment in general—obviously more so with this year, but also just adjusting to a different time schedule, a new environment and between different lockdowns and bidud, that’s definitely been an adjustment. In terms of America, it’s a little more freeing where you can go and how you can go about things during corona, but once you get used to it here, there are definitely a lot of positives to the situation.

How has being here been different from your expectations?

I expected to come to a warm and positive environment, and that’s what I found, thank God. I expected it to be challenging at times, but oftentimes a challenge is what makes you grow most, and I don’t think that differs from what I expected. It really did meet expectations. Even with all of the unknowns, there were lots of positive things. It’s a different year than previous MMY years, but a lot of those changes have worked out really nicely for us.

Did you feel prepared for your experience or did you have culture shock, and how so?

I don’t think there’s a culture shock. You’re exposed to different hashkafas and there’s diversity in the teacher and student body, but the girls who come to MMY are all very like-minded people: everyone wants to grow in their avodas Hashem and Torah learning, but in an open-minded and intellectual way.

How do you think the pandemic has positively affected your year?

I think for one thing, even though we’ve had so many more in-Shabbats this year, we’ve gotten to know the teachers more. Some of the more inspirational shabbatons for me were with teachers I’d never spoken to and whose classes I hadn’t taken.

I also think not getting to go out as much has allowed us to reflect more on what we do during our free time. A lot of girls choose to spend their extra time in the beis and have been able to have more chavrutas, start learning Nach Yomi, etc. We also get to explore the area more, and we’ve had a chance to take advantage of the Baka neighborhood.

What kind of effect do you think bidud (quarantine) had on the students?

We know each other more. We went straight into bidud when we got off the plane. Including shana bet, there are about 100 girls total, and for some people that’s really overwhelming. Because we immediately went into apartments and there were only six people, I feel like I got to know my roommates much better. I think that was a positive thing; each apartment formed a really close bond.

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

I’m looking forward to hopefully being able to go out for Shabbat more. I love being here, and I’m so excited to be able to spend another five months here.

How do you think this year will prepare you for the rest of your life?

I’m building relationships here that I will have for the rest of my life, with both teachers and friends. These relationships are crucial because they’re with people you can always go back to for advice and check in with. The things you get to learn about yourself this year are really important. I’ve discovered a lot of things I want to work on, or things I want to improve on, and when I’ve gone on out-Shabbats I would notice things like “that was a really cool minhag” or “that was a really nice way of doing something.” In terms of how it’s going to build me going forward, this year is enabling me to continue solidifying a foundation for myself.

Besides for the relationships, I think I’m gaining a lot more in terms of the breadth and depth of Torah learning. I get to learn more about Eretz Yisrael and the life I want to live going forward. You learn so much during your year in Israel—a lot of Halacha, a lot of Tanach, different hashkafot and concepts, but in some ways you can’t really apply as much of it until you’re out in an environment that’s not as structured.

Is there anything more you would like to add?

For anyone applying to yeshivas and seminaries, don’t get too overwhelmed by the process. It’s going to be great! Just trust yourself, and trust Hashem. You’ll find yourself in the right place.

And just a thank you. There are so many people that this year wouldn’t have been able to happen without, but a specific thank you to the people I surround myself with every day, especially the teachers and faculty who work tirelessly every day to ensure we get the most from our year.

And to the girls here, because it wouldn’t be as positive of an environment without them. Your year is about who you surround yourself with, and if the girls encourage you and push you in your learning, they can push you to start a chavruta or reach out to teachers, and to be your best self.

Brooke Schwartz is a former Jewish Link intern and resident of Englewood studying at Midreshet Amudim in Modi’in, Israel, for her shana bet year.

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