Two semesters in Jerusalem have ended – a must-have experience for any rabbinical student of almost any liberal college in the world. Was it possible to get similar knowledge and skills in another country – of course yes. Is it possible to get the experience of staying in Israel without being in it? Of course not. This is a mandatory Israeli immersion, studying at a yeshiva, internships at local reform synagogues, life in Jerusalem, a time of dramatic political changes, protest demonstrations, sirens calling for hiding in a bomb shelter – all this experience becomes an integral part of the personal Judaism of every future liberal rabbi.
Despite the fact that you spend 10-12 hours a day in yeshiva, immersed in various texts in a group or Hevrut, looking back, you realize that everything that surrounded your studies was no less important and influential. The main difference from academic education, to which we are all accustomed in universities, is the inability to distance ourselves from the material being studied and analyze it with the impartiality of a scientist.
The Yeshiva wants you not only to understand, but to live and change personally, to apply the material to yourself so that it affects your regular Jewish practice. In addition, you communicate with students from different countries, different mentalities and cultural boundaries. And it’s a big challenge to build a community with people with completely different life experiences. In addition to the educational processes, each yeshiva student was a member of some committee to contribute through social activities. I chose the most universal and understandable language for myself, the language of food, I was a member of the „community lunch“ committee and once a week with a group of assistants on duty, I prepared lunch for the yeshiva in it. So I introduced my culture, food preferences and culinary talents to this community. And no matter how I showed myself in my studies, the yeshiva remembered me as the one who knows how to feed a large group of people deliciously. But since I believe that the memory of the stomach is stronger than our intellectual capabilities, it means we will remember each other for a long time.
Alla Mitelman, rabbinic student at Abraham Geiger College
Photos: Alla Mitelman