Atara Rothwachs is studying at Michlelet Mevaseret Yerushalayim (MMY) in Jerusalem. She grew up in Bergenfield, attended RYNJ for elementary school and Bruriah for high school. Her family davens at Ohr HaTorah.
Her next stop? Touro.
Why did you choose to study at MMY?
I am currently in MMY and I am having an amazing time. I decided to go to MMY because I knew I wanted to be in a place that was intellectual and growth-oriented, which would challenge me to get out of my comfort zone while still being in a comfortable environment with teachers and girls who would inspire me to continue learning.
What kind of goals do you have for the year?
My primary goals going into the year were to force myself to get out of my comfort zone, to experience all different aspects of Israel, and to build close relationships with friends and teachers.
What have been some of the highlights of your year so far?
So far, we have been on many trips and shabbatonim, but one moment that stands out was from Rosh Hashana. Unlike most seminaries, MMY is in for the holiday, and teachers and their families come to MMY for the chag. For one of the night meals we were having a “dira meal,” meaning each apartment ate their meal at home together. After the meals were over I was in my room and I heard singing so I figured it was in the other dira on my floor, but it wasn’t. I assumed then that everyone was on the floor above me, but again I was wrong. Five flights of stairs later, on the highest floor of the building I found myself surrounded by nearly 70 girls (sitting in a room that’s unable to hold more than 15 comfortably), singing at the top of our lungs. We sat in that cramped room singing for over an hour. At around midnight we somehow ended up all dancing and I was shocked that the floor didn’t cave from underneath us. The pure joy and achdut in that room was unbelievable, and no one would have guessed that I didn’t even know half the girls’ names yet!
What kind of challenges have you faced coming to Israel?
So far, everything has been great. Obviously there is an adjustment to living in a new country with new people, but MMY has really made the transition very easy and smooth. Having said this, I would say my biggest difficulty has been sharing a kitchen with 15 other girls. I am in the largest dira, with 16 people, who all have to share one oven, one sink, and try to keep it sanitary. While I happen to be friends with many girls in my dira, it can still get stressful trying to cook a good dinner without getting in anyone else’s way.
How has your year been different from your expectations?
Before coming, I was especially nervous about the style of learning at MMY because it is different from anything I have ever done before. Older girls had told me that it would be a big adjustment from Bruriah and that it would be hard at the beginning. Coming in, I was ready for this, but it didn’t end up being true. I was comfortable from day one, and don’t even remember having an adjustment period. The learning style and chavruta was a little hard, but everyone struggles, and the teachers were there to help whenever I needed them. Coming in, I thought I would be very unprepared, but after two days of classes I realized I was wrong and that I had actually come in with many skills I didn’t even know about.
Where is your favorite place to go for weekends/Shabbat so far?
For Shabbatot I have had the opportunity to go to many places in Israel, but no specific place stands out. While everyone for some reason loves the “chavaya” Shabbatot where they have to sleep in a caravan, eat meals with people who speak no English, or need someone with a gun to accompany them outside, I personally really enjoy going places where I can feel at home. Whether I am going to teachers, cousins, or with friends to their family and friends, it’s nice to be able to get comfortable on their couch, eat good food, and have a normal conversation in a language I can understand.
Who is a teacher at MMY you connect to especially well?
Since all my teachers are unbelievable and each of them will have an impact in my life, I can’t pick just one. Many of our teachers join us on our shabbatonim and have girls at their homes for Shabbat, and through spending time with them outside of the classroom I have been able to get to know them much better and more personally.
Which is one of your favorite classes at MMY?
All of my classes are amazing, but one class I feel I gain a lot from is Devarim with Rabbi Charnoff. He teaches Chumash in a way I have never learned before, and has turned a sefer that is commonly overlooked into something that now feels very practical for my everyday life.
What are you most looking forward to for the rest of the year?
Over the rest of my year I am looking forward to continuing to learn in a place that will continue to challenge me and teach me life lessons that will carry me through the rest of my life.
By JLNJ Staff