This week’s JLNJ Spotlight Israel features Shana Adler. Shana is studying at The Jeanie Schottenstein Center for Advanced Torah Studies for Women (Nishmat) in the Pat neighborhood of Jerusalem. Shana is from Teaneck, attended Yeshivat Noam for elementary school and Ma’ayanot for high school. Her family davens at Congregation Rinat Yisrael. She is also a former summer intern at The Jewish Link.
Her plans for next year? Yeshiva University’s Stern College for Women
Why did you choose to learn at Nishmat?
I chose to study at Nishmat this year because I was looking for a program with a high level of learning that catered to both Americans and Israelis. I was drawn to this particular program because of the valuable balance between the integration of Americans and Israelis, and the ability to still have a comfortable environment as an American while I am here. During my selection process last year, I was also blown away by Nishmat’s incredible staff of teachers and was extremely excited to learn from them.
What kind of goals do you have for your year?
Going into this year, I had a few goals, and still pursue them now, four months into the year. First, I wanted to become more proficient in Tanach, Gemara and Halacha, both in terms of skills and general knowledge. I also wanted to become more fluent in Hebrew, so that I can converse relatively intelligently and understand high-level shiurim in this language. Finally, I hope to spend part of the year searching for answers to difficult questions about faith and Judaism.
What has been one of the biggest highlights of your year so far?
One of the highlights of my year so far has been Rabanit Henkin’s weekly parsha shiur. She always shares incredible insights and approaches to ideas that I had never thought about before. I also really loved our trip to Eilat at the beginning of the year. I had never seen that part of Israel before, and it was both a fun and a challenging experience to hike through the Negev desert there.
What’s your favorite extracurricular/outside-of-seminary activity this year?
I am a member of the Tikvah Overseas Students Institute, which I absolutely love being a part of. The group is made up of about 40 yeshiva and seminary students, and we meet a few times each month to discuss a range of issues mostly pertaining to politics and Judaism. We have really interesting conversations and the program has been a great addition to my year.
What kind of challenges have you faced coming to Israel?
One of the hardest things for me this year has been leaving behind my family and my high school. I am very close with my parents and siblings, so it has been challenging for me to not see them every day. Ma’ayanot was also like a second home to me for four years, so it has been a bit difficult for me to leave all of the amazing people there and the incredible classes and activities it offered me.
How has being here been different from your expectations? Did you feel prepared for your experience or did you have culture shock, and how so?
Academically, I felt extremely prepared to learn at Nishmat this year. My four years at Ma’ayanot were extremely focused on building Tanach and Gemara skills that I hope to improve even more at Nishmat. There is also not quite as much Hebrew at Nishmat as I had mentally prepared myself for, which is good and bad. I’ve learned that at least half of the Israelis at Nishmat speak fluent English, as do most of the teachers. This definitely makes me feel a lot more comfortable to converse with peers and speak up in class, but it does mean that I will have to work a little harder to ensure that my Hebrew improves this