2012 Student Interviews

From our Former Students…

Our first student, SZ, went to The Frisch School before attending Yeshivat Lev HaTorah in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel. He currently attends Baruch College in New York.

TLZ: What inspired you to want to go to Israel?
SZ: To be honest, my Israel guidance counselor from high school recommended that I spend a year in Israel. The idea seemed ridiculous, but I missed hours of class to have all these interviews, so I wasn’t complaining. Then when I chose YU over Binghamton, primarily so I could stay closer to my family, I figured that Israel was a great way to “skip” a year of college. I could get my 32 credits and finish college in three years instead of four. I was shomer Shabbos and kashrus when I visited my friends’ houses for the weekend, but personally I was very jaded about Judaism.

TLZ: What was your most inspiring experience in Israel?
SZ: The most inspiring moment may have been at Kibbutz Dan, a tiny yishuv on the foot of Har Hermon. I was spending the Shabbos with a good friend of mine, and I was so amazed at how people can live in the middle of nowhere, in a house the size of my mother’s bedroom (literally), and still be content with life. The feeling of achdus I felt in that tiny shul, coupled with the true beauty of the land, really stood out as one of my greatest moments.

TLZ: How did your year in Israel change your life?
SZ: The year changed my life tremendously. I always had the background, but I never had the desire to live a Torah-fulfilled life. The year in Israel showed me the beauty and warmth that Judaism possesses, and the yeshiva’s loving-kindness will help me build a unified and caring bayis of my own one day.

TLZ: What is the most important lesson you will take from the year in Israel?
SZ: One is that Israel is the ultimate place for the Jewish people. Another is that something as mundane as kindness, love and understanding have the power to break boundaries and open hearts. So many people know the basic tenets of Judaism, yet are unwilling to choose a Torah lifestyle. What Lev Hatorah taught me is that you have to reach someone’s heart in order to kindle their soul.

TLZ: How will the year in Israel help you become a better Jewish person?
SZ: The year in Israel will help me become a better Jewish person because it taught me how to reach out to my brethren and my Creator. I work at Tomchei Shabbos on Thursday nights, something I did under duress before I went to Israel. I also make time to learn everyday; I started daf yomi a number of months ago. This year will also teach me how to build a home filled with Torah and G-d-fearing values, something I was ambiguously willing to commit to before I went to Lev Hatorah.
I’ve undertaken some chessed projects in addition to increased hours of learning over the course of my workweek, and I plan to grow with others, volunteer for chaburahs, and become more active in shul.

TLZ: Where are you now?
SZ: I am about to start my Master’s in Sciences in Industrial Organizational Psychology at Baruch College in Manhattan, NY. Upon obtaining my master’s, I hope to be working. If not, I may pursue an MBA afterward. I plan to continue my daily learning and perhaps, just perhaps, go for semicha if I find the right chavrusa.

Our next student, AA, went to Yeshivat Sha’alvim and currently attends Yeshiva University.
TLZ: What inspired you to want to go to Israel?
AA: I grew up religious, in a modern Orthodox community, and attended yeshiva day school all my life. I knew that Torah was important before I went to Israel, but I didn’t know what it was that made it so important. Many of my friends had gone and were going, and my older siblings went before me. I wanted to advance my own study of Judaism and understand what it was all about.

TLZ: What was your most inspiring experience in Israel?
AA: The “bayit cham” – the weekly gatherings at our rebbe’s house when we discussed various Jewish issues and ideas. It was an opportunity to speak about topics other than what we were learning in shiur and to think about important life issues.

TLZ: What is the most important lesson you will take with you from this year?
AA: Nothing is handed to you. You need to work hard to gain a full understanding and appreciation of learning. It doesn’t happen without hard work.

TLZ: How will the year in Israel help you become a better Jewish person?
AA: It’s where I began working on developing a Torah perspective with which to live my life. I gained a lot from my year, and I want to give over of what I’ve gained to others. That’s part of what makes a great leader.

TLZ: Where are you now?
AA: Yeshiva College, pursuing dentistry.

JR spent a year in Israel at Michlalah Yerushalayim, and is now at Touro College.

TLZ: What inspired you to want to go to Israel?
JR: Tanach, davening, the news and ancestors. Family and friends who sacrificed a lot to move to Israel, and who helped build up the Jewish communities in Israel, also inspired me to spend a year there.

TLZ: What was your most inspiring experience in Israel?
JR: Davening at Kever Rachel after learning in Yirmiyahu about the pasuk, “Rachel mevacah al baneihah.” Then seeing the wedding dress worn by Navah Applebaum, who was killed in a suicide bombing the day before her wedding, being used as beautiful curtain in Kever Rachel. It was frighteningly real, being there, seeing the past collide with the present, seeing how the galus of 2000 years ago is the same as the galus today. It was, and still is, very moving.

TLZ: What is the most important lesson you will take with you from this year?
JR: “Ha-zorim b’dima b’rina yiktzoru” – You sometimes have to work hard and be patient, but man, can you really reap dividends.

TLZ: How will the year in Israel help you become a better Jewish person?
JR: I was fortunate that my seminary exposed me to many different people, yet steadfast in its own beliefs and opinions. Seeing this model so many times and in so many different forms will hopefully help me integrate this quality into my life.

Being in Israel also gave me a stronger sense of what I can achieve as a Jew. I was reading an article about Chanukah that cited a famous quote: “Greece found holiness in beauty, the Jews found the beauty of holiness.” This exact concept was impressed upon me during seminary; that we, as Jews, have “Eitz chaim hi” – a life guided by the Torah, “La-machazikim bah” – and we grab onto it, passionately. I remember all the events and the lessons communicated to me, not by lectures and source sheets, but by teachers’ expressions and demeanors. Seeing the invigoration that a Torah-centric life engenders, up close and personal, is not something I will easily forget.

TLZ: Where are you now?
JR: I am in Touro College and plan on working in the computer software industry.

I’d like to give a big yasher koach to Torah Letzion. It’s been two years since I went to seminary, and I would not have been able to afford it without your help. I was fortunate to have a good Jewish background from my home, school and community before seminary, but the year in Israel was an extremely unique and valuable experience. The effects from that year are still making their mark on my life. You should continue to have much hatzlacha in your work.

Before going to Israel, AH attended Hebrew Academy of Nassau County for high school. She went to Tiferet in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel, and currently attends Stern College for Women.

TLZ: What inspired you to want to go to Israel?
AH: Not only do I have a strong love for the land of Israel, but I always wanted to dedicate a year of my life, before college, to spiritual and religious growth. I have always thought it is a crucial year to strengthen ones religious identity before entering the “real world.”

TLZ: What was your most inspiring experience in Israel?
AH: I had many inspiring experiences throughout my year. A few highlights include going to the Kotel my first night in Israel, saying slichot at Kever Rachel and spending a Shabbos in Chevron and getting to daven at Maarat Hamachpela. These experiences truly left a strong impact on my life.

TLZ: What is the most important lesson you will take with you from this year?
AH: Throughout my year in seminary I learned so many important life lessons. There is not one lesson that I could pinpoint as the most important. However, I value all that I have learned and can’t wait to continue applying these lessons as I move forward. My year in seminary truly shaped my life; without it, I would be a very different person today. The experiences I had and all that I learned strengthened and expanded my spirituality and religious identity.

TLZ- How will the year in Israel help you become a better Jewish person?
AH: Not only did my year in Israel reiterate how important certain things are, but it also taught me many halachot that I was not even aware of, and I hope to be able to continue keeping all these new halachot.

My year in Israel helped strengthen my pride as a Jewish woman; it also strengthened my love for the land of Israel. I now understand the importance of having pride in your Judaism – not to be ashamed of being different, but rather to embrace it!

TLZ: Where are you now?
AH: I am in Stern College. I hope to major in biology and go into medicine.