Miriam Brickman is studying at Michlelet Mevaseret Yerushalayim (MMY) in the Baka neighborhood of Jerusalem. She was born in California but grew up in West Orange, attended JKHA in Livingston for elementary school and Bruriah for high school. Her family davens at Etz Chaim in Livingston.
Her next stop? Rutgers Business School.
Why did you choose to study at MMY?
This year I am learning in MMY. Many factors went into choosing my seminary. The most important requirement was a warm, inviting environment because I had never been away from home for an extended period of time and knew it would be a huge adjustment to leave. Another factor for me was the different learning styles. MMY is specifically known for its focus on chavruta learning (learning in partners). I really appreciate all the chavruta time we have; not only do we learn Tanach and Halacha, but we gain textual and learning skills that are solely found in a beit midrash-style class. Other components in the decision-making process included: location, amounts of chesed and tiyulim the seminary offers.
What kind of goals do you have for the year?
My goals for the year are growing in my avodat Hashem, advancing my learning skills and taking advantage of all the opportunities throughout the year. Knowing that I am going to a secular college next year really motivates me to gain textual skills and to leave with a new level of learning and comprehension of Torah. As much as time will allow, I also want to experience Israel and all of her different communities outside of the classroom. Lastly, I’m easily pursuing my passion for food with a multitude of restaurants specializing in Israel’s amazing Middle Eastern cuisine!
What have been some of the highlights of your year so far?
The most inspirational experience so far was definitely Shemini Atzeret lunch. I had the good fortune of working at a camp this summer with an adorable little boy whose family spends Sukkot in Israel. They told me that they host around 60 guests per meal and that I was welcome to join them. When the chagim approached, I contacted them and asked if two friends could join me for a meal, and without hesitation they said, “Of course!” We had no clue what to expect: the amount of people, the types of people, what kind of food, etc. On Monday morning we walked to their house and were the first guests to arrive. As everyone else was arriving we initially just looked at how different we all were. We were all coming from very different seminaries and yeshivas with different backgrounds and different lifestyles, and we were all thinking the same thing: this is going to be a very awkward meal. What started out as a meal of subtle stares and small talk and turned into the best meal I’ve had so far. It was a four-hour Yom Tov meal filled with amazing Middle Eastern food and the chance to get to know some amazing people. We were all similar in so many ways, and the meal opened up my eyes to how connected different sects of Jews are. This gave me a new appreciation for all different kinds of Jews that make up Am Yisrael.
One of the most exciting moments so far this year was our first full-day tiyul. We set out on our adventure bright and early at 7 a.m. We started off the day hiking up and down Har Arbel. Although it seemed daunting at first, once we got the hang of it, it was amazing (and all our muscles were definitely thanking us for the exercise the next day)! After we finished the hike, we went to a party boat where we blasted music and danced like there was no tomorrow. After our high-energy dancing we relaxed at the beach for a bit and ended off our unbelievable day with a nice dinner at Cafe Cafe.
What kind of challenges have you faced coming to Israel?
So far, what I see to be the biggest difficulty of the year is being able to take advantage of every moment. There are so many great experiences here and it can be hard to appreciate all of them as they’re happening. One thing that helps is taking five minutes, either during lunch or before you go to bed, to think about the day and write in a notebook or journal a few things to help you recall all the little amazing moments. By the end of the year you’ll definitely be thankful that you have something to remember all the wonderful memories you made here in Israel.
How has your year been different from your expectations?
The whole senior year of high school I kept hearing how hard the first half of seminary is and that the adjustment period is really difficult, filled with tears and loneliness. My friends and I felt very differently when we got here! From the moment I got off the plane I already felt at home (it definitely helped that I had been in Israel a few months prior for my brother’s bar mitzvah). Everyone was so friendly, both the staff and my fellow classmates, and the ride from the airport to MMY was breathtaking and full of excitement. After meeting my sweet, cool, accented, South African roommates and catching up with old friends, I knew we would all get along great and it would be the beginning of a fantastic year together.
Seminary has been very different from what I expected. Everyone makes seminary sound like a magical place filled with only growth, a new sense of self and pizza. What I realized early on, however, is that it’s okay to not feel the change right away. Even when the school takes you on inspirational tiyulim, it may take a while longer for the spirituality to set in. Everyone needs to go at their own pace and make the changes that are right for them. One thing that exceeded my expectations, in a positive way, was the attitude of the people here. When upperclassmen would talk about seminary friends, they would say that you make your closest friends at the end of the year and that it’s okay to be homesick for a while. While the latter may be true, my friendly fellow classmates and special teachers really helped me adjust quickly and feel right at home in seminary.
Where is your favorite place to go for weekends/Shabbat so far?
For now, my favorite Shabbos experience was in Moreshet, a small yishuv up north. I stayed at my friend’s uncle’s house and it felt exactly like home. While their family’s composition is different from mine—consisting of five daughters, while mine consists of four boys and two girls—our families are extremely similar. We have the same Shabbos table conversations, the same sense of humor, we know the same people and eat the same Shabbos food. On Shabbos morning, after a beautiful davening in their shul, we walked back to the house and had Kiddush on their porch (like most families do in this yishuv) and got to experience the gorgeous weather and the breathtaking view. We got a tour of the whole yishuv and met some really nice members of the community and their kids, running through the streets, because there were absolutely no cars driving on Shabbos. During the afternoon, some guests came over and we played games with their kids until Shabbos came to an end. It was that Shabbos that really taught me the beauty of the day and the uniqueness it holds in Israel.
Who is a teacher at MMY you connect to especially well?
One of my teachers I connect to especially well is Mrs. Gelernter. Not only do I love the class she teaches, but she also has a very outgoing, energetic personality that’s hard not to be inspired by. The class she teaches is about taking different midot from different characters in Tanach and learning how to apply these traits to our lives. I really enjoy how we’re able to look at stories in Tanach that are often overlooked and delve into the deeper meaning of each role model, using their reactions to life’s curveballs to make us stronger and more attuned people. We also integrate a lot of psychological concepts into the class to help us understand the true motives of each individual we learn about.
Which is one of your favorite classes at MMY?
One of my favorite classes is called Haftarot, taught by Mrs. Berman. Instead of a classic parsha class that focuses on the weekly parsha, this class expands upon the haftorah of each week. In the class we find the connection of the haftarah to the time of year or to the parsha and uncover the deeper meaning of what the navi is trying to tell us. This class has allowed me to move onto the next level of parsha learning, which has taught me that there is always more learning to be done!!
What are you most looking forward to for the rest of the year?
I’m excited for all the hikes, tiyulim, and shabbatonim throughout the year. I’m looking forward to making more unbelievable memories with friends and deepening my bonds with teachers. I can’t wait to try new Israeli foods and experience Shabbatot in different communities throughout Israel. Most of all, I’m looking forward to improving my learning skills and growing in my avodat Hashem and growing as a person. I hope my year in Israel gives me everything I hope to gain, and at the end I can proudly look back and say my shana aleph year at MMY was a success.