For decades, a post-high school year of Torah study in Israel has played a crucial role in shaping young observant Jews’ future spiritual identities and connection to Judaism. But not all have the opportunity to enroll in a seminary or yeshiva before they begin their college studies.
Now in its tenth year, Yeshiva University’s July in Jerusalem Program provides an opportunity for Jewish students from any college to immerse themselves in a month of learning, traveling and giving back to the land of Israel.
“It’s a condensed yeshiva or seminary experience, capturing that bubble of spiritual growth where you don’t have to worry about grades or tests and can just focus on your connection to your Judaism,” said Shoshana Schechter, the program’s director.
“Many of our students haven’t been raised in the yeshiva system and have never had the chance to do this before. We give them the opportunity to take ownership of their relationship to Torah and provide them with the spiritual and historical context to appreciate what they’re taking in about the Land of Israel that’s all around them.”
For each morning of the four-week program, students came together to study such topics as the relationship between the Jewish nation and the Land of Israel in the Bible; the psychology behind mitzvot; Jewish philosophy; Talmud; and prayer. They spent the afternoons volunteering at organizations such as a treatment center for elderly dementia patients, soup kitchens and Hatzalah. In the evenings, they explore the Land, kayaking down the Jordan River, walking through the ruins of ancient synagogues and dancing at the Kotel on Friday night.
Many students also shared in chavruta learning.
“It wasn’t just a trip to Israel to hike a lot and see the country, but it was also a chance to connect to so much more,” said Raquel Erdos of Brooklyn, who is studying biology at Stern College for Women.
“The highlight of my experience were all the times when I got to speak outside of class with the rabbis and teachers and administrators to learn and hear advice about their own lives,” said Laura Lachman of Baranquilla, Colombia, who graduated this spring with a degree in accounting from Sy Syms School of Business.
“The faculty were incredible—they not only taught us Torah with sincere passion, but taught us how to live a sincere Jewish life by example,” said Ariella Kohansieh of Great Neck. “I learned so much about Israel and my own Judaism.”
July in Jerusalem is made possible with the generous support of Mary and Gerald a”h Swartz.
Source: Yeshiva University