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April 25, 2013 - Image 71

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2013-04-25

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

jewish@edu

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South Haven in Israel on Young Judaea Year Course.

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here are you going to college
next year?" This was the most
common question I was asked
during my senior year of high school. This
was also the most frustrating question for
me to answer. I knew that the people asking
wanted a simple reply, and I didn't have one
for them.
"I'm going to Kalamazoo College," I
would respond, "but I'm deferring my
acceptance to travel to Israel on a gap-year
program called Young Judaea Year Course.
I will be taking classes, but it's really a year
of immersing myself in the culture and
volunteering in Israeli communities." This
semi-automated response was able to satisfy
the question, but it was not able to begin
to describe the journey on which I have
embarked.
I have been living in Israel since the
beginning of last September and will be here
until early June. By the end of my program,
I will have lived in three different locations:
Yemin Orde, Jerusalem and Bat Yam. Each
place offers a different part of Israeli life, and
each place presents different opportunities
for volunteering, depending on what the
local area needs.
While in Yemin Orde, a youth village in the
north of Israel, I was able to volunteer as a
teacher's assistant with a diverse population,
helping students learn English. This village
takes in immigrants and refugees from all
over the world, most of whom are from
Ethiopia, Russia and the Darfur region. This
coexistence of cultures is a beautiful sight,
especially in an area of the world too often
known for having turmoil between its people.

W

71

April 25 • 2013

Second, I was in Jerusalem; this is the aca-
demic part of the program where we engage
ourselves in formal Jewish education. I took
classes relating to Israeli and Jewish culture.
Some of my classes were Hebrew, Jewish art
and a siyur (field trip) comparing the three
major monotheistic religions of Jerusalem:
Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Living and
taking classes in Jerusalem, the epicenter of
Judaism, helped me develop my Jewish iden-
tity and spirituality.
In March, I moved to Bat Yam, a suburb
of Tel Aviv. This section is a mixture of aca-
demia and volunteering. I get to choose my
volunteering option where I will go for a few
hours several times a week; and I continue
taking classes, such as Hebrew and Zionism.
I'm very excited to finish off my year so
close to a major city on the coast of the
Mediterranean Sea.
Year Course was the best decision of
my life. I have had so many experiences I
could never have had in a college setting.
I have become more independent, and the
memories and the friends that I have made
will stay with me forever. I have also gained
a greater sense of knowledge about inter-
national culture and issues. I will never have
this opportunity again, and I'm proud to say
that I did not let this life-changing experi-
ence pass me by. @

Danielle Riffer-Reinert, 18, is from South

Haven, Michigan, and will be attending

Kalamazoo College in the fall. For

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April 25 • 2013

71

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