Earlier this year, when applying to Springboard’s 18 under 18, I was presented with the following question: What is the most important issue/ injustice/ problem facing Jewish teens today? It didn’t take much time, or self-reflection, for me to come up with my answer. This was
because there was a specific issue that seemed to engulf me in everyday life, and it is one that I have always been and will continue to be passionate about for the rest of my life.
I believe in the importance of achieving unity, without enforcing uniformity. In order to accomplish this feat, we must eradicate the practice of labeling one another. Labels can serve as a tool for better understanding and relating to our environments. However, labels can also fuel resentment and a
lack of unity. When we use labels to differentiate the ways Jewish people express themselves religiously, we are reducing qualities and spirituality to a mere superficial characteristic, for example the hat one wears or the synagogue where one prays. These actions inadvertently
cast judgement and can contribute to the rift that exists between Jewish factions.
In choosing to study in Israel for a year, it was very important to me to find an institution that recognized the importance of celebrating the various expressions of Judaism that exist within the confines of Jewish law. I wanted to be somewhere that didn’t attempt
to dictate a uniform, “cookie-cutter” way of life to its students. I found what I was looking for in Michlelet Mevaseret Yerushalayim (MMY).
MMY strives to counteract the negative connotations often associated with superficial labels by enabling their students to see the beauty in the varied lifestyles that exist within the Jewish community and ensuring that students understand that there is not one way to be a
Torah Jew. Their mission statement explains, “We are deeply committed to the idea that no one form of religious expression is right for everyone.” It is MMY’s belief that coming to such an understanding will enable students to better connect with Judaism, one another, and the
land of Israel. After all, by removing the superficial labels, we can stop focusing on our disagreements and start focusing on our shared heritage.
I am ecstatic to spend the upcoming year learning in MMY, because I will have a chance to study Torah on a deeper level, form a connection with the history of Israel as well as the land itself, grow spiritually, personally, and intellectually. Most importantly, at MMY I will be given the invaluable opportunity to unite with
my nation and heritage without feeling the need to conform to a standard way of life or harbor any judgement towards those have views that are different from my own.
It is my hope that through all the things I will be privileged to gain over the next year, that I will be able to strengthen my own convictions and my own religious expression so that ultimately, there is one label I can proudly display, and that is: A G-d fearing Jew.
We are proud to offer Israel Experience Merit Scholarships
to high school students through age 23 who display leadership abilities and are
committed to Jewish communal activities. Anyone going on a summer or
fall/academic year program are eligible to apply each spring. For more
information, please visit our website or contact Jody Slate at Jodyslate@juf.org
Looking for opportunities to go to Israel? Masa can help
you get there - for more information contact Alissa Brown at Alissabrown@juf.org