I can’t really tell you what I came to Nishmat expecting. Part of that is because I had already come to learn at Nishmat for five weeks during one of my winter breaks, so I knew how warm an environment it is and how growth oriented the students and faculty are. Really, though, I just knew that I wanted to improve on my learning skills, and give myself a better foundation for continuing to learn in the future. The experience that Nishmat turned out to be, however, extended far beyond that.
The learning was, of course, excellent. It was so invigorating to be learning in a vibrant atmosphere of women from all over the world (both in our program and in other programs running concurrently at Nishmat) who are devoting their time and energies to learning Torah. The faculty are patient (even when we made some truly laughable mistakes in translations…) and passionate about sharing their love of Torah and of Am Yisrael. Living in Jerusalem and learning at Nishmat, I really felt connected to the spiritual undercurrent that so often passes unnoticed in our days and weeks. I would be remiss not to mention the incredible care and devotion that Nishmat faculty and staff show to their students. The faculty take a real, deep interest in their students’ development, both spiritually and in other aspects of their lives. I think that Nishmat has given me both the tools and the community I was looking for to be able to continue learning Torah seriously even while I am not learning full time.
Most importantly, I “found my people.” The term is trite, I am aware, but it is hard to concretize beyond that how I experienced building relationships with my friends and mentors from Nishmat. I found people who shared my enthusiasm for learning and my investment in it. Further, and perhaps even more vital, I found people whose view of the world and our place in it is compelling and inspiring to me. I found role models in both faculty and in my peers. It is a rare place that draws such an exceptional group of people, each of whom brings their own rich perspective. Learning from these role models was the most important learning I did all year. It is a learning that found depth in the beit midrash, but also extended far beyond it. It is a learning I continue to do, as their words and actions replay in my mind and I have the chance to internalize more completely the meaning of interactions I could not fully understand when they happened.
This, I think, will be one of the most important impacts that Nishmat has on my life. Unfortunately, it is not plausible that all of us will be able to stay at Nishmat indefinitely. By its nature, a year (or even two or three – one of my chavrutas from the winter of 2012 was my chavruta again when I came back last year in 2015-2016!) at Nishmat is finite. However, through my friends and mentors from Nishmat I am still connected and still feel the drive to learn and to grow that I felt so strongly during my time at Nishmat. My friends from Nishmat are still constantly inspiring me, learning with me and laughing with me. As I commence my graduate studies in the United States, I am struck by the ways in which the year I spent at Nishmat was not finite. Even as I start to devote more time to other studies and I am geographically far away, Nishmat is a constant presence in my life, encouraging me to learn and to grow.