Midreshet Rachel Student Body
Midreshet Rachel v’Chaya’s student population is diverse, dynamic, and highly motivated:
- from recent university graduates to accomplished professionals;
- both single and married;
- usually between their early twenties to late thirties (though there are exceptions);
- coming from a wide range of Jewish backgrounds and communities.
All are dedicated to growing intellectually, personally and spiritually.
Two Letters from Students – “Reflections of a Student” and “Lily from Chili”
Reflections of a Student
Leah Angerman, Midreshet Rachel v’Chaya 5762/2002
This short piece written by a student near the end of the school year captures the feeling of a year’s learning at Midreshet Rachel v’Chaya, at least from one woman’s perspective.
I can’t believe it’s already that time that I can start reflecting on my year – the time has flown by! Yet at the same time it seems like I’ve been in this heavenly place, I call my home, forever! Although this year has been tough emotionally at times, the “matzav” (current political situation) has not taken away from my time at Midreshet Rachel. In fact, it has helped me to focus on things that I would not necessarily otherwise experience. For example, the one theme that has been repeated over and over again this year in my learning is the importance of the unity of Klal Yisroel. Klal Yisroel is like a body, if one part of it is weak, the whole nation is effected. Dealing with tragedies amongst so many innocent Jews this year has made me try to feel the loss to the Jewish people as a whole rather than as “just another number.”
On a happier note, I’ve had more time to focus on learning outside of school. Since it has been recommended that we avoid downtown and busy places, I’ve been able to come home to the dorm at nights and read a lot more and spend a lot less money than I would if I were going downtown every night.
In the dorms and to and from school, thank G-d, I feel very safe. I walk or take buses back and forth and also feel comfortable visiting friends and families in various neighborhoods and cities. I’ve been told at times of the year that Israel looks like a “war zone” from abroad, but living here in a neighborhood in Jerusalem, I have felt safe. Everyone lives and goes on living their normal lives.
The year of learning has been incredible. I love the small classes, personal attention, different Torah outlooks, and the close family feeling at Midreshet Rachel. The balance of textual and discussion type classes with a wide spectrum of topics has helped me become solid in my Judaism and coming (especially at this time) was the best decision I have ever made.
Lily from Chili
Lily Schonhaut, Midreshet Rachel v’Chaya 5766/2006
From this letter, written by a student from Chile immediately after the school year, you can really sense what the atmosphere at Midreshet Rachel is like.
I had the good fortune of being part of the Midreshet Rachel world.
How did I end up there?? Who knows! (I don´t), I feel it was G`d guiding me…
The story begins in Chile, when I had the idea of going to Israel to study for a couple of months, but I didn`t know much about the different midrashot. I asked some girls who had already studied in Israel for advice; they mentioned “Midreshet Rachel”, and I got the impression that the girls enjoyed being there. Then I saw the website and it seemed to me that it was a nice place. So I decided to apply and go there, always thinking in the back of my mind that if I wouldn`t like it there, I could always look elsewere…… but I didn`t have to! No even close; I went to Israel hoping to have a good experience there, and as soon as I got there I realized everything was exactly as I had hoped it would be. (I know it may sound exaggerated, but this is how I honestly feel; my friends used to tell me that it seemed I was in my honeymoon with the school, since I liked it so much!). The environment was so friendly and warm (I felt it hat way even though I come from the warm South American culture); my English wasn`t perfect then (not that it is now), and I got there in the middle of the year when all the girls already knew each other. In spite of that, as soon as I got there, with my huge suitcase, saying “Hi, I`m Lily”, the girls exclaimed “Lily from Chili! So you are!” They had already heard about this girl coming from a place that rhymed with her name, and quickly they make me feel part of them. Also the Rabbis and the administrative faculty contribute largely to form this caring environment, always smiling and worrying about the students and being open to answer any question you might have about a class, halacha or even your life.
The learning there was so great. I always wanted to have the tools to learn and gain insights from Tanach, and this was exactly the focus of most of the classes there.
Beside that, it was very important for me not to feel pressured to live my Judaism in a particular way. And I found at Midreshet Rachel that I can be myself in the “big see of Jews living Judaism”; it doesn`t matter what color of skirt you wear or how you look; the important thing in life is who you are. In that sense I noticed that the Rabbis would push each girl in her own path of growth, so she could achieve the best of her own.
Actually I did feel pressure there – but only pressure to improve myself, to strengthen my relationship with G`d, to do more chesed and to analyze deeply everything I hear or learn (I guess you can expect that, after having met Lynn, Rabbi Shurin and Rabbi Karlinsky; the three of them have a big influence on the environment, and it is great to feel a push in these areas of your life).
Speaking of being pushed to do chesed, I can say that I felt it from the first moment there. And I`m not talking about big acts of chesed (although there are also a lot of those there), rather about the little details that can make the difference, like when the girls don`t let you wash your own plate, or when they organize bikur cholim for a sick girl, or the shpiel for a wedding, even if the couple who is getting married is someone they never met.
Some concepts that I learned there -both, in the classes and by observing the behavior of the Rabbis- are honoring each person (since each of us is an image of G`d, therefore by giving honor to someone else you are also honoring that person`s Creator). and “hakarat hatov”, which means that when somebody does something for you, you get connected to that person forever.
The whole Darche Noam institution transmits a feeling of community, which is something that can be difficult to find in Israel; Israel as a community can feel a bit too big (i.e. when you go in a bus everybody wants to give you advise about your own life), and is easy to feel lost in it, therefore it is so nice to have a smaller community with people that you care about. In this context, I have to say that it is amazing how the rabbis and faculty members would live their student´s happiness, as their own.
So I can just thank you all, Rabbis, teachers, friends, faculty and everyone for making my year in Israel such an amazing one, helping me to grow and learn through your examples. It was just too great.
Lily from Chili.