Editor’s note: Rabbi Goldwasser offers some important tips for young women as they prepare to study in Israel.
1. Be open to all that happens around you. Attending classes at your seminary is only the start. Every moment offers an opportunity for learning and growth. Go to lectures and Shabbat meals at the homes of respected rabbis and teachers and take note of the way they live their values. Observe the people you pass on the streets; you will see both great leaders and people with great needs. It will prepare you to step out into the world as a young adult when you return to the United States.
2. Meet and hear from esteemed personalities. Every teacher, rebbi and rebbetzin has wisdom to impart; your responsibility is to take advantage of the guidance and instruction they offer. Seeing gedolei haTorah, visiting mekomos hakedoshim (holy sites), spending Shabbat and yomim tovim with Torah mishpachos, are unparalleled learning moments.
3. Visit the holy places and historical sites. Go to the Kotel, visit the City of David and Western Wall excavations, pray at Rachel’s tomb, climb Masada and so much more. You will feel Jewish history coming to life. There is no comparison between learning about a place and standing on that ground. It is a life-changing experience.
4. Become involved in chesed. Being in Eretz Yisroel is an auspicious time to become involved in a caring and sensitive way to help the people and the land of Israel. Find an opportunity that is meaningful to you personally. You may choose to work with children with disabilities, pack care packages for soldiers or work with families of terror victims. Making a difference as a young adult will change the way you interact with the world later on in life as well.
5. Cultivate new friendships. You may have spent a lifetime with the same groups of friends at school, at camp or in your neighborhood. A year spent in Eretz Yisroel is a time to connect with people from all over the world. You will learn about different customs, backgrounds and types of homes. You will understand that we are a universal nation. And you will make friendships that have an enduring impact on your life.
6. Be aware that Eretz Yisroel is not a nisayon-free zone. The same nisyonos (tests/challenges) that can and do arise in chutz la’aretz occur in Israel as well. There is heightened spirituality but also spiritual challenges. You must remain vigilant at all times and make sure that you continue to observe all the gedarim (fences) of Halacha, as well as the rules and guidelines of your particular school.
By Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser, Lander College for Women
Rabbi Goldwasser’s expertise encompasses a wide range of subject matters. He has shared advice including daily guides to Jewish living, personal stories of inspiration and coping with eating disorders. Rabbi Goldwasser’s radio feature Morning Chizuk is heard daily on JM in the AM (WFMU-FM and jmintheam.org) and The Nachum Segal Network. He is a weekly columnist for the Jewish Press, has been featured in a special series on WABC and has appeared on CNN and CBS Television. In addition to his roles at Touro College’s Lander College for Women/The Anna Ruth and Mark Hasten School, he is also the spiritual leader of Congregation Bnei Yitzchok in Brooklyn.